By DAVE SKRETTA
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nathan Chen had landed some of the most difficult jumps in figure skating, soaring through the air with a dizzying array of quads and flawlessly stringing together incredible combinations that left the crowd wanting more.
Figures that he would faceplant on a simple step sequence.
It didn’t matter, though. Nor did a mistake on one of his four quadruple jumps. Chen was that much better than everyone else at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Sunday, winning the free skate with 212.63 points and scoring 328.01 in all — good for his sixth consecutive title by nearly 26 points over 17-year-old wunderkind Ilia Malinin.
“Silly things happen all the time. Am I to expect that? Probably not,” Chen said with a smile and shrug. “It was a dumb little moment. I just got wrapped up in that moment and lost my footing. It is what it is. Make sure I don’t do that again.”
Chen’s six titles are the most by a men’s skater since Todd Eldredge won his sixth in 2002, and he is the first to win six in a row since two-time Olympic champion Dick Button won seven straight in the 1940s and ’50s.
Vincent Zhou followed an exceptional short program with a calamitous free skate Sunday, barely edging Jason Brown for third place and putting his spot on the U.S. team for Beijing in question.
It has been a remarkable four-year run for the 22-year-old Chen, who trains at Great Park Ice in Irvine. Since a shockingly poor short program at the Pyeongchang Games cost him a shot at an Olympic medal, Chen won 14 consecutive events, from national titles to world championships and everything in between, before losing to Zhou at Skate America in October.
That turned out to be a blip: Chen won Skate Canada the very next week.
He underscored his readiness for Beijing when he broke his own national record in the short program, a throwback to his “La Boheme” program from a couple years ago that featured a pair of soaring quads and scored 115.39 points.
Then, Chen put his readiness in all CAPS with his performance in the free skate.
Wearing a costume adorned with a supernova, Chen blasted off into another level to music from “Rocketman” with a score that beat his own Grand Prix best this season of 307.18 points. And he topped the 322.36 points his biggest rival in Beijing, two-time Olympic champ Yuzuru Hanyu, scored in winning the Japanese national title last month.
Malinin, whose parents both skated for Uzbekistan at the Olympics, had a three-point lead after the short program over longtime fan favorite Jason Brown, whose odyssey getting to Nashville — five canceled flights, four airline changes, three airports, two countries and about 33 hours of traveling — made him a winner regardless of his performance.
Malinin, the self-proclaimed “quad god,” hit a huge opening quad lutz and quad toe loop to set the tone for his program. He also hit a quad salchow later in the performance to finish …read more
Source:: Los Angeles Daily News