by Liz Leamy
(3 January 2018) The leading U.S. men seem as fired up as ever as they prepare to face off against one another at the U.S. Championships in San Jose this week in hopes of scoring a medal and one of three sought-after U.S. Olympic spots.
This year’s roster of men’s contenders is quite remarkable to say the least, as it features such big names as Nathan Chen, the 2017 U.S. titlist who’s lit up the skating world these past few seasons with his stunning collection of quads, Adam Rippon, the 2016 U.S. Champion who has become known as one of the most engaging and charismatic performers in the sport today, Jason Brown, the 2015 U.S. gold medalist who is another one of skating’s premiere showmen, Max Aaron, the 2013 U.S. first-place finisher who rose to the top rung of the sport due to his terrific athleticism, and Vincent Zhao, the 2017 U.S. silver medalist who is yet another card-carrying member of the elite quad club.
Nathan Chen, 18, the 2017-18 International Skating Union Championship Grand Prix Final gold medalist, stands at the helm of this astonishing group of athletes.
Known for his famous collection of lightning-quick quads, Chen is always one who seems to wind up right in center spotlight and for good reason. In his characteristic gutsy manner, the Salt Lake City native is planning to knock out five quads in his free skate program at this event.
“I’m excited to go to Nationals again,” said Chen, who trains in Lakewood, California with Rafael Arutyunyan. “Training has been going well. We’re just taking it [all] step by step.”
Asked about his concentrated level of technicality in his programs during a pre-Nationals teleconference, Chen was straightforward in regard to the way of the sport these days.
“This is the direction the sport is taking,” he said. “I’m just going to continue with my plan.”
Adam Rippon, the 28-year old veteran men’s contender (who, like Chen, trains with Arutyunyan in California) is also poised for a golden-ticket outing this coming week.
“I’m skating well, I’m looking good and I’m feeling great,” said Rippon in a pre-Nationals teleconference call. “I’m feeling like I’m in some of the best shape of my life and feel really good going into Nationals.”
The engaging Scranton, Pennsylvania native, who grew up training at the University of Delaware, should be good for delivering the goods at this competition, especially based upon the quality his outstanding first-place free skate at the 2017 Bridgestone Skate America Championships in Lake Placid last November (where he finished second overall to Chen, who clinched gold.)
“I’m going to San Jose to do the job I do everyday,” said Rippon. “If I’m able to do what I do everyday in practice, I can do anything.”
Jason Brown, 23, who, like Chen and Rippon, is always a huge crowd favorite, should also perform a first-rate series of short and long programs.
Brown, who trains with Kori Ade in Monument, Colorado, has been working harder than ever leading up to this competition and has been said to be skating better than ever.
“I’m so excited to have the opportunity during an Olympic year to get out there and give it everything I’ve got,” said the Highland Park, Illinois native in a pre-Nationals teleconference interview last week. “The U.S. Championships are always a great event.
Brown’s programs always a huge hit with the crowds and with good reason, as his both short and long routines, in typical manner, were crafted by his longtime mentor, the venerable Rohene Ward, winner of the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating/Professional Skaters Association Choreographer of the Year Award.
Max Aaron, 25, the talented skater known for his soaring quads, is another skater to consider.
The Scottsdale, Arizona native, who has been training with Tom Zakrajsek at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs for a number of years, always racks up huge points for his quad Salchow, quad toe, triple Axel, triple Lutz and other elements, among other things.
Vincent Zhao, the talented 17-year old who trains with Tammy Gambill, the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating/Professional Skaters Association Coach of the Year Award recipient in Riverside, California, is another contender to watch at this event.
Known for his incredible rotational ability, Zhao, like Chen, is planning to do multiple quads in the free skate portion of this competition, which should go over well if executed to the best of his ability.