by Liz Leamy
Chen Prevails in Ladies Event, Frontrunner Brings Crowd to Feet, Earns Big Points with Superb Short
(20 January 2017) Karen Chen, 17, hit the proverbial ball out of the park with her superb short program to the film score from ‘On Golden Pond’ by Dave Grusin, which catapulted her right to the top of the 19-member field of talented and decorated group of ladies contenders.
The Fremont, California native, who trains in Riverside with Tammy Gambill and 2015 U.S. bronze medalist, scored a well-deserved 72.82 for her efforts, and shot right to the head of the leaderboard, placing ahead of Mirai Nagusu, the five-time U.S. medalist and 2008 U.S champion, who was second with a 71.95 and Ashley Wagner, the 2016 World silver medalist and three-time U.S. titlist, who placed third with a 70.94.
Chen, the sixth skater to go out in the event, brought the crowd in Kansas City to their feet with her performance, which featured a soaring, clean triple Lutz-triple toe, triple loop and show stopping level-four layback spin, among other memorable things.
On finishing first, Chen said she was surprised and thrilled.
“I was thrilled and excited to go out there and have fun and skate my best,’ said Chen. “I’m surprised and shocked – my body is still trembling. I’m excited to go out for my long and skate my best.”
Chen was also excited to be sitting alongside Nagasu and Wagner in the press conference.
“They [Mirai and Ashley] are my role models,” she said. “I’ve watched them skate for years and it’s amazing to sit by them up here.”
Nagasu, 23, the Arcadia, California native who trains in Colorado Springs with Tom Zakrajsek, was second with her dramatic performance to Frederic Chopin’s ‘Nocturne No. 20 in C-sharp Minor.’
Dressed in a gorgeous purple dress laden with crystals, Nagasu enchanted the crowd with her interpretation of this classic number and executed a lightning-quick triple flip-triple toe, double Axel and three stunning level-four spins, among other elements.
“This puts me right back where I want to be, right in the game,” said Nagasu, who placed tenth at the 2016 Worlds in Boston. “This is our make it or break it competition and to have delivered a strong competition is what I’ve been praying to the gods for.”
Ashley Wagner, 25, stepped up in characteristic winning style and delivered a top-notch performance.
Skating to the Eurythmics ‘Sweet Dreams,’ Wagner brought down the house with her interpretation of this huge 1980s pop hit.
She executed a big triple flip-triple toe, triple loop and level-four layback spin, among other things.
“I feel like today was honestly a great day for me,” said Wagner, who trains in California with Rafael Arutyunyan. “I’m looking forward to the long program.”
Tessa Hong, 14, who trains in Colorado Springs with Tom Zakrajsek and Becky Calvin, wound up fourth due to skating a clean and outstanding performance for which she earned a 65.02.
Gracie Gold, the 2016 and 2014 U.S. champion, was fifth with her performance to the film score from ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith.’
Gold, 21, who trains in Los Angeles with Frank Carroll, executed a gorgeous triple Lutz-triple toe, three level-four spins and a terrific level-four step sequence. She did, however, double a planned triple flip, which affected her score by several points, being an element that earned no points.