Home Figure Skating News USA’s Nathan Chen storms to lead in Beijing

USA’s Nathan Chen storms to lead in Beijing

by Paula Slater
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USA’s Nathan Chen performs during the Men’s Short Program on day four of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Capital Indoor Stadium on February 08, 2022.

The Men’s Figure Skating Short Program for the 2022 Winter Olympics took place on February 8, 2022, at the Capital Indoor Stadium in the Haidian District of Beijing. USA’s Nathan Chen currently leads the men, followed by Japan’s Yuma Kagiyama and Shoma Uno.

Chen nailed a quad flip, triple Axel and quad Lutz-triple toe in his routine to “La Bohème” by Charles Aznavour. The three-time world champion racked up loads of high grades of execution (GOEs) for his jumps and level-four spins and footwork to earn a record short program score of 113.97. At the end, the normally stoic skater released his emotions in what appeared to be a mixture of relief, success, and gratitude.

“I have no idea what came over me,” he said. “Normally I don’t do stuff like that. It just felt right. I was really happy and it just came out.”

“I’ve very happy, especially after coming back to the Olympics as the short program did not go to well the last time,” said Chen. “I’m really honored and lucky to be up here with these two skaters. I’ve learned a lot over the past four years and have an amazing coaching team, including support from parents and friends. I wouldn’t be able to make it to another Olympics without them.”

“Knowing how it feels not to skate on how you planned, doesn’t feel great, especially at the Olympics,” said Chen, when asked about Hanyu’s skate. “But you certainly can’t ever count him out. He’s a two-time Olympic Champion for a reason and also, no matter what he does, he will always be a true figure skating icon. One of the greatest ever, if not the greatest ever. Nothing he can do in the future can ever take anything away from that. It’s been a amazing honor to be alive at the same time as him and be able to witness what he has been able to do on the ice and continue to push the sport.”

Kagiyama put out a solid program which featured a quad Salchow, quad toe-triple toe, and triple Axel in his routine to “When You’re Smiling” by Michael Bublé. The 2021 World silver medalist smiled throughout while showing very good level-four spins and level-three footwork. He also earned many high GOEs and finished second with a new personal best of 108.12.

“This is my first Olympic games, and to be honest, I thought I was going to be nervous, but I was having fun from beginning to the end,” said the 21-year-old. “As for the jumps, I cannot complain, I had nice landings, but my steps… my legs were giving up on me, that was a little minus, but everything else was good. I’ve been performing quite well. I just need to keep it up.”

When asked if he thought it was possible to be Chen, the skater said his goal was not to “win over someone, but compete with himself.”

“If I do my best, then ranks will follow,” said Kagiyama. “I don’t try to be number one or win over somebody. The reality is that I have so many gaps. There is so much I have to practice to get to the level he’s at. I need to be more confident, for jumping or performances in general, but some day I hope I can compete on the same level as Nathan. I’ve also been learning from Shoma, watching his videos, and I want to be closer to him as much as possible in the quality of skating.”

Uno put a hand and foot down on the landing of a quad toe-triple two, but landed a solid quad flip and triple Axel in his short to “Oboe Concerto.” The defending silver medalist also displayed very good level-four spins and footwork and finished in third place with a new personal best of 105.90.

“I felt a bit unconfident with my jumps, however I was in good spirits” confessed the 24-year-old. “I made some errors, but some of the GOEs were higher. I had a problem on my combination and will have to practice. I made a good adjustment from the Team Event and the practice. I will add more complicated and difficult jumps in my Free Skating. There is one day left to adjust myself, and I will bring the best for the competition.”

“I’m not just aiming at the result, because then skating becomes a hardship,” Uno added. “This year, I feel like I’m on a growing trajectory. As I’m going through the process, I can be successful in practices, but not competitions. This year I want the competitions to help my practice and my practice to help my competitions. Nathan, for the last four years, gave me that idea, because I want to aspire to achieve the level he’s achieving. These two colleagues are why I’m thinking this way.”

South Korea’s Junhwan Cha put out a new personal best for fourth place (99.51). The 2022 Four Continents Champion delivered a solid performance which included a quad Salchow, triple Lutz-triple loop, and triple Axel. All spins and footwork were graded a level four with many positive GOES.

“I hesitated before the competition, worrying about the results,” he admitted. “Despite my nervousness, I, trusting my own competence, managed to finish this program as I did in my training. I have enjoyed quite good form from the very beginning of the season.”

The 20-year-old from Seoul felt gratitude for his supporters, saying: “I want to perform even better for those who are supporting me in the upcoming competition. From PyeongChang to Beijing, it is their love and support that have been helping me perform well. I will spare no effort in Thursday’s free skating competition.”

Morisi Kvitelashvili of Georgia pocketed 97.98 points for a new personal best for fifth place after his short to “Tout l’universe” by Gjon’s Tears. The 2021 Rostelecom Cup Champion landed a clean quad-Salchow-triple toe, triple Axel and quad toe in, while displaying level-four spins throughout.

USA’s Jason Brown didn’t disappoint with his popular “Sinnerman” routine. While he had no quad, the 2020 Four Continents silver medalist wove a story with excellent level-four spins and footwork, as well as a solid triple flip, triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe.

“It was a long time coming,” said Brown. “Eight years trying to get back to this stage to be able to put out a performance like that. I really tried to find my way back to the sport and to find love and determination again. I really started to put oil to the fire that had kind of extinguished. Fire’s burning!”

“It’s never easy to skate last in an event,” the 27-year-old added. “It was the buildup to get out there to finally compete to have that moment. I was just thrilled that I was able to put it all out there.”

Evgeni Semenenko was determined in his routine to “What Is It About Her?” landing a quad toe-triple toe, quad Salchow, and triple Axel. All spins and footwork were graded a level four and he finished seventh with 95.76 points.

Two-time Olympic and defending champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan popped a quad Salchow, but landed a quad toe-triple toe and triple Axel to finish eighth (95.15).

“I feel I am a little bit in shock. I didn’t feel anything bad until takeoff,” said the 27-year-old. “When I took off, I was under some hole, maybe (caused by) some other skater’s toe (loop) or flip or something. I used other another place (on the ice) in the six-minute warm-up and I (felt) really good. I just moved a little in the competition with the music and I was under the hole. That was some accident but it’s OK.”

“I have one more chance,” added Hanyu, confirming that he intends to attempt a quadruple Axel. “I have lots of time with the music and many jumps in there, so I (can) be my best.”

Keegan Messing of Canada gave a confident performance to “Never Tear Us Apart” which featured a quad toe-triple toe, triple Axel, and triple Lutz, however, the steps and one spin were graded a level two. The national champion finished ninth (93.24) in his second appearance at the Olympics.

“We have been keeping the happy-go-lucky attitude,” said the 29-year-old. “To hop on Olympic ice and to put out a performance I can be happy with, it means a lot. I am stoked on life right now, to go out and do what I did.”

Kevin Aymoz of France currently sits in10th (93.00), followed by China’s Boyang Jin (90.98) and Daniel Grassl (90.64) of Italy.

USA’s Vincent Zhou withdrew from the event after testing positive for COVID-19.

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