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2014 U.S. National Championships

Huge victory for Nathan Chen

 by Klaus Reinhold Kany



(9 January 2014)  

Nathan Chen ran away with a huge victory in the men’s junior competition in Boston, winning with 223.93 points, ten more than any other US junior skater ever had so far at US Nationals. The 14-year-old skater represents the Salt Lake City figure skating club and trains with Rafael Arutunian, until last August in the Ice Castle in Lake Arrowhead, California. Since this rink closed, he trains in the East-West-Palace in Artesia, California. Last season he had some injury problems and was not in his best shape at Nationals, being third. But this season, he won his Junior Grand Prix competitions in Mexico City and Minsk (Belarus) in the fall and was third at the ISU Junior Final in December in Japan. He is a medal candidate for Junior Worlds although he is younger and smaller than most of his fellow competitors.

In the short program to music of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” in Boston, he took the lead with a difference of more than 16 points and gained 79.61 points. He started with a clean triple axel. His combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop was as excellent as his required triple loop, the three level 4 spins and the step sequence for which he got a +3 from six of the nine judges. And his style is much more mature and elegant than the style of the others.

Chen fell on the opening triple axel in his long program because he was a bit slow and under-rotated it. Skating to “Chattanooga Choo choo” and parts of Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess”, he recovered quickly and was successful with his second attempt for this jump, followed by a double toe loop. “Yes, I did a little mistake but I am happy with the outcome. I just tried to put it aside and concentrate on my next elements”, he commented. “It was not hard.” He continued with six more triple jumps in the second half, including a combination of triple flip and triple toe loop, all of which got plus points from the judges. The three spins (all level 4) were other highlights as well as the step sequence with level 4 which five of the nine judges rewarded with a +3 and four with a +2.

Chen has precise feelings about the Olympic Games: “Yes I feel very much inspired by Ashley Wagner and Adam Rippon who I train alongside every day. I can see how much pressure they have to qualify for the Olympics. It’s awesome for me to be here and to watch them trying to qualify. Maybe in four years I will have the same pressure, but it is still far away. The Olympics are only every four years and many skaters can reach it only once in their lifetime. For this season, I feel honored that I can represent my country at Junior Worlds this year.”

Second is Jordan Moeller with 191.66 points who also has an idol in his rink. “I have trained together with Jason Brown for years and see his rise and his ambitions.” Moeller was ninth and sixth at his two Junior Grand Prix of this season. The 18-year-old skater of Oak Lawn, Illinois, was only sixth in the short program because he fell during the step sequence and the triple loop. But all his elements in the long were clean, including six triple jumps though no triple axel. Like Chen, he got only level 4 for his free program spins and step sequence. “It was a good recovery from the short program”, he said after the free program. “And I am proud to be on the podium and maybe nominated for Junior Worlds. It was one of my biggest goals of the season.”

The bronze medal (182.73) went to Jimmy Ma who trains in Hackensack under the former world champion Elaine Zayak and Steven Rice. His jumps in the short, including a combination of triple lutz and triple toe loop, were good but he stumbled on a spin. In his clean long program, he had five triples, but doubled a flip and a toe loop.

The 18-year-old skater had boot problems in December when a blade broke during practice. He began to explain that it happened on a triple flip, but Elaine Zayak interrupted him: “Tell them that you were working on a quad toe loop”. He answered laughing: “This is my story. You have had your story. If I can go to Junior Worlds, a dream would come true.”

Chase Belmontes from the Broadmoor Skating Club sits on fourth position with 177.19 points. In the short program, his jumps (including triple lutz – triple toeloop) were clean, but in the long, two jumps were shaky.

Nicholas Vrdoljak is fifth with 174.99 points. He had been third after a good short program, but in the free program only three triple were clean. He missed the two triple flips and a Salchow.

Kevin Shum is on sixth position with 172.63 points after showing five clean triple jumps in the free program. Tony Lu, who even did a triple axel in both parts of the competition, is seventh with 170.83 points.

It is astonishing that six skaters in the short and four in the long got a level four for their step sequence, because internationally a level 4 is really rare. Less than half of the top ten in senior worlds get that.