by Liz Leamy
(16 January 2017) Nathan Chen, the 2016 U.S. men’s bronze medalist who stunned the skating world this past December at the 2016/17 International Skating Union Grand Prix Final in Marseille with a remarkable free skate that featured four quads which earned him a stalwart silver, along with Jason Brown, the electric 2015 U.S. champion and 2014 U.S. silver medalist and Max Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, 2014 U.S. bronze medalist and 2016 second-place finisher are three of the main headliners in this year’s exciting men’s event at U.S. Nationals.
This trove of talented U.S. skaters, known to be some of the most formidable and promising contenders on the world circuit today, are certainly ones to watch, as they each have styles that are defined by skill, power, energy and personality.
Meanwhile, Adam Rippon, the reigning U.S. titlist, will be not be competing at the men’s event this year due to a fracture of a metatarsal bone in his left (landing) foot that he had sustained during a practice several weeks ago.
Not one to let challenges like this affect him, Rippon, in a recent teleconference call sounded as optimistic as ever and said in terms of rehabilitation, he has laser focus and plans to be at the Olympics in 2018.
“I’m going to grow and use this to be the best version of myself,” said Rippon, who plans to head to the U.S. Olympic Training Center next week to start his rehabilitation process. “I will do that because that’s who I am.”
Collectively, this spirited and resonant group of U.S. contenders, based upon their attitudes, accomplishments and focus, all seem to reflect the quintessential American ideology of resilience and spirit in in terms of how they face the various challenges and goals that go along with being a standout world-level athlete.
This past year, Chen, 17, showed his grit and resilience in the manner in which he rebounded from a hip injury sustained at the conclusion of U.S. Nationals last January.
Due to that injury, Chen, the 2015/16 ISU Junior Grand Prix gold medalist, U.S. junior champion in 2014 and 2012 and U.S. novice titlist in 2011 and 2010, was forced to withdraw from the World Championships in Boston last March.
Rather than be deterred, however, the Salt Lake City native, in turn, decided to use this experience as a motivational tool.
Several months later, after Chen had completed his rehabilitation process at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, he on the ice in the spring and then in full training mode by July.
Chen, who is coached by Rafael Arutyunyan in California and Marina Zoueva in the Detroit suburban area, then went on to take the international competitive world by storm in the Grand Prix Final in December with a career-changing free skate that featured four high-flying quads and made him the talk of the skating world.
This week, Chen ought to be good for putting out some more impressive performances, that’s for sure.
For this athlete, however, it’s simply all about the idea of growth and building.
“It’s cool to be part of that conversation,” said Chen in regard to the buzz generated about him being a leading Olympic contender. “I feel I have to keep training and working on my quads.”
This season, Chen is skating to ‘Le Corsaire’ by Adophe Adam and Leo Delibes for his short and ‘Polovtsian Dances’ by Alexander Borosin for his free program.
Brown, meanwhile, the 2016/17 Skate America silver medalist, is poised for a strong outing at the U.S. Nationals this week.
The affable 22 year-old, who is a Highland Park, Illinois native and has been training with longtime coach, Kori Ade, in Monument, Colorado for several years now, said he is feeling strong going into this competition.
Brown, who missed last year’s U.S. Nationals due to an injury, virtually set the crowd at the TD Garden in Boston on fire in 2014 at the U.S. Nationals with a memorable ‘Riverdance’ free skate.
Rounding out this impressive list of headliners is Max Aaron, the 24 year-old Scottsdale, Arizona native who trains in Colorado Springs with Tom Zakrajsek and Becky Calvin.
Known for his soaring quads and triples, Aaron should be good, once again, for delivering the goods in this event which ought to also help make this one heck of a memorable competition.
Finally, there is Grant Hochstein, the 2016 U.S. fourth-place finisher who was 10th at the 2016 World Championships. This powerful and apt 26 year-old, who trains with Karen Kwan and Peter Oppegard in Artesia, California, has some of the finest jumps and spins in the entire men’s field and is always one to step up to the task at major events. Last season, he delivered two exceptional programs in the tough men’s World Championships, where he was a huge hit with the crowd.