Nathan Chen Take Runaway Lead in Men's Short Program
by Carly Gold
(5 January 2018) The reigning U.S. Champion Nathan Chen remains undefeated this season, winning the short program Thursday night with a huge score of 104.45.
It comes as no surprise that he leads the pack going into the free skate on Saturday. His performed elements were more reserved than we have seen earlier in the season, but still more than 8 points above Adam Rippon, who came in second. There was no quadruple Lutz tonight; instead, we saw a smooth quadruple toe loop in its place.
At the press conference, Nathan stated, “I’m happy with tonight. I did a little bit of a watered down program, with no Lutz. Made a couple mistakes here and there. You know, there are some things I need to fix for Saturday. But overall, the performance was good and the audience was really loud. I really enjoyed myself out there today.”
The defending U.S. Champion sported a new haircut and costume designed by Vera Wang. Chen looked sleek in all black with white stripes down the arms, accentuating his fluid lines and choreography.
“It was a really fun process getting to work with Vera and her whole team. I didn’t realize there were so many people behind her designs and her costumes. It was really cool to have that experience,” Chen remarked in the press conference.
Adam Rippon was a crowd favorite tonight. His saucy short program earned him a well-deserved 96.82 points. Adam is a seasoned competitor and this year he clearly came ready to play. His choreography and interpretation stood out amongst the younger jumping beans in the event, scoring the highest components of the night with 46.49 points.
He opened his stunning program with an easy triple flip-triple toe loop combination and followed with a nice triple Axel and triple Lutz. Although Adam doesn’t have a quad in his program, between his spins and components, he didn’t need it for the U.S. Championship’s field. However, he will need to up his technical game to be competitive in the Olympics and World Championships.
Rippon was sidelined for last year’s Championships with a broken foot.
In the press conference Adam said, “I am really happy with what I was able to put out today. I’m waiting for my day of reckoning, which is on Saturday. It’s the one-year anniversary of me breaking my foot. I’m here for that drama. This was the first step I needed to take to have that amazing comeback I knew I would have.”
America loves a comeback story, and the figure skating world is no exception. Few skaters deserve success on an Olympic year more than Adam Rippon.
Jason Brown placed third over Grant Hochstein by just 1.02 points. Brown, a 2014 Olympian and 2015 U.S. Champion, was a favorite for the podium leading into this event, but without a quad his third place score was questionable. He opened with a two-footed triple Axel that was given awarded with full rotation. He went on to land a nice triple-flip triple-toe loop and triple Lutz. Jason flexibility and intricate choreography didn’t disappoint, and he delivered his “Hamilton” program full of character and expression. His incredible skating and nearly impossible spins earned him 93.23 points.
“I was definitely disappointed with the opening part of the program. But, what I am proud of is the recovery and making sure I didn't leave a single point on the table after that,” Brown stated.
Grant Hochstein was extraordinary tonight. His quadruple toe loop and triple Axel were exceptional, each awarded with positive Grades of Execution. His clean skate was awarded with 92.18 points. Hochstein’s closing step sequence and final spin were explosive and passionate. The crowd was emotionally invested in the performance, jumping to their feet as soon as the program finished. This was one of the best performances I have seen from Grant. He is in fourth place heading into Saturday’s free skate.
Vincent Zhou had a disappointing performance tonight. He opened with one of the best quad Lutz-triple toe loops I’ve ever seen, and gained nearly straight 3s in GOE. The triple toe loop featured a Rippon arm variation. After starting strong, Vincent struggled on both his quadruple flip and triple Axel. His quadruple flip was marked under-rotated with negative GOEs. A fall and another under-rotation on the triple Axel sealed his fate. Vincent is one of the best jumpers we have, and his program is full of technical potential. However, it was crucial that he perform cleanly tonight to put himself in podium contention. His 89.02 will put him in the final flight of men heading into tomorrow’s free skate.
A National champion in 2013, Max Aaron had a very underwhelming performance tonight, ending up in 12th place. He attempted two quads and a triple Axel. His music selection of “Bring Him Home” was ill suited for a powerful skater like himself. He scored a low 74.95 points going into the free skate.
There were several highlights from other skaters in this event. Ross Miner was a standout skater this evening, performing cleanly and scoring an 88.91 good enough for 6th place. His double butterfly entrance into his final combination spin is not to be missed. Alex Johnson landed a lovely triple Axel, but had some missteps later in the program. Alex Krasnozhon attempted and landed the only triple-triple combination tonight featuring a triple loop as the combination jump.
Jimmy Ma presented another memorable program. Skating a powerful performance to an EDM mash up, the younger members of the audience certainly got into his program. Ma is notorious for skating to non-traditional music, and his step sequence was a crowd favorite this evening. One of my favorite programs of tonight, he landed his triple Axel and triple flip-triple-toe loop combination with ease, making his unconventional program truly memorable. He scored 75.28 points and sits in 11th place.