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2017 Nationals: Senior Men's Short Program

by Geri Walbert


(21 January 2017)  The required elements of the Short Program for Championship Men include the following: a double or triple Axel, a triple or quadruple jump preceded by connecting steps and/or comparable free skating movements; a jump combination consisting of a double jump and triple jump, or a triple/triple jump combination, or a quadruple jump combined with a double or triple jump; a flying spin; a camel spin or sit spin with only one change of foot; a spin combination with only one change of foot; and a step sequence fully utilizing the ice surface.

Quadruple jumps are becoming the new technical standard for those skaters hoping to make it to the podium internationally, especially when included in the Short Program. Currently the only competitor at Nationals that can handle several different quadruple jumps, a unique technical capability, is 17 year-old Nathan Chen. In the Short Program however, only two different quadruple jumps are allowed. Prior to the competition, Adam Rippon, last season’s national men’s champion who has a solid quad jump, withdrew to injury, so the role of event favorite fell to Chen.

Chen didn’t disappoint. He opened with the very difficult quad Lutz/triple toe loop combination in his program to “Le Corsaire” by Adolph Adam with huge 17.90 base value score, followed by a quad flip, and a triple Axel with a difficult spread eagle entry. The audience knew this skate was something special and began applauding the routine at the beginning of the 6th element of his program – the step sequence and were on their feet at the end of the program giving him a standing ovation.

His coach Rafael Arutunian said he knew of Chen’s potential when he began coaching him six years ago. “To me he was already showing good artistry and skating skills.

But Chen had a rough season last year when after winning a bronze medal at Nationals he suffered a left hip avulsion at the exhibition gala, which took months to recuperate and rehabilitate. He admitted that the process to healing was difficult but ultimately made him stronger.

“I’m really happy with the program I did today, it’s the first clean short that I’ve done all season with the triple Axel. That’s a huge step for me…I feel like it’s pushing my limits and I’m really happy. I’ve been struggling with the triple Axel this season and to be able to do that in the short program was really big for me.

“Throughout my skating career, nerves have always been there,” he admitted. “It’s something that I’ve tried to distract myself from and put that aside as much as I can.”

Chen was the clear winner with a total score of 106.39, an almost unbeatable 17+ points over the second-place skater Ross Miner who finished with 88.67 points.

Miner, 25, has been competing in the senior international circuit since the 2011 season. Coached in Boston, MA with Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson, Minor has developed a classic style over the years – strong, fast, and elegant. Performing to Billy Joe’s “New York State of Mind” he exhibited those very good skills with a solid opening triple Axel, followed by a fine triple Lutz/triple toe loop, interesting step sequences and a solid triple flip, receiving a partial standing ovation from the audience.

Miner admitted that he often doubted himself when he would go out there and skate. “I would skate well in practice and then (at competition) I would hold back. I kind of told myself today that I want to have fun out there and do what I do every day and treat it like any other program. I’ve been skating for a long time. So I just draw on that and use use it to help me skate a better competition. That’s what I’m looking forward to do Sunday as well.”

Vincent Zhou, a 16 year-old from San Jose, CA trains with Tammy Gambill in Riverside, CA. He missed a previous season due to injuries and was not considered a top prospect for the medal stand despite winning the national junior title in 2013. However, Zhou has a quad – a solid quad Salchow, in his program to “Writing on the Wall” by Sam Smith, developed by choreographers Derrick Delmore and Drew Meekins, add that to a triple Axel, a triple Lutz/triple toe loop with both arms raised and you receive a score of 87.85 for 3rd place.

Afterward Zhou said he was proud of how he skated. “There are things that can be improved, but it’s the first short program I’ve done with a clean quad in it. The crowd helped a lot. I’m glad to show off the training I do at home.”

Jason Brown, 22, placed 4th at 79.23 points with his program to Sam Smiths “Writing on the Wall.” After recuperating from a recent injury, Brown said he “gave it his all” but the potential quad jump opening turned into a triple flip/triple toe loop combination and a fall on the second jump, the triple Axel, kept him from a leading role going into the Final on Sunday. Nevertheless, he is a wonderful skater and could manage to make the medal stand if those at the top falter.

Another potential favorite Max Aaron, another former national champion, skating earlier fell on his opening quad Salchow, put a hand down on the following triple Axel and fell on the triple Lutz to place 12th and is likely out of contention for a medal.