by Liz Leamy
(16 January 2019) America’s premiere men’s skaters, including Nathan Chen, the 2018 World Champion and two-time U.S. titlist (2017 and 2018), Jason Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion and Vincent Zhao, the 2017 World Junior gold medalist, among others, are on the home stretch preparing for the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, beginning January 18th and running through January 27th.
This main event, which will be held at the new state-of-the-art Little Caesar’s Arena in downtown Detroit, should be full of drama, as Chen, who is the 2017 and 2018 International Skating Union Grand Prix Final champion, and the other top athletes face each other the closing weekend, January 26 and 27.
For Chen, 19, a full-time freshman at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, competing at Nationals represents an opportunity to achieve cement his reputation as the premier man in American figure skating, and shut down naysayers who question the effectiveness of training across the country from his primary coach.
“It’s cool that I had an opportunity to compete at Worlds and had the opportunity to win [last year],” said Chen, who is the youngest of five children. “[However,] I don’t really want to carry too much of my past into the future. I have to basically skate as well as I can [and] just want to focus on all the things I do in training so I do my best in competition.”
Chen, who is coached by Rafael Arutyuyan, who is based at the East West Ice Palace in Artesia, California, spent two weeks of his college holiday break recently training his short and long programs and technical and artistic skills with his coach.
At Yale, Chen trains at the Ingalls Arena, the famous whale-shaped architectural structure based in the center of the historic Ivy League campus, where he skates approximately one and a half hours daily, four to five days a week.
Chen seems to have adapted effectively to this new way of life and has managed to make his academic responsibilities work in concert with his training schedule.
“I’m glad [with] the way things have been going,” said Chen. “There is still a lot of work to be done.”
Chen said his primary goal at Nationals is to skate clean and plans to perform the same technical elements as he did at the Grand Prix Final last December.
For Chen, everything comes down to simply getting the job done.
“Motivation is based upon whatever you have to have done at the end of the day,” said Chen.
Jason Brown, the effervescent 24 year-old Chicago-area native, meanwhile, is looking to make his mark in Detroit and reclaim a U.S. Nationals podium position.
Brown, whose reputation among many in the skating community is one of being ‘a skater’s skater,’ finished second at the 2014 and third at the 2017 U.S. Championships, respectively, but missed making the 2018 Olympic team after placing sixth at last year’s Nationals.
Brown, a five-time International Skating Union Championship Grand Prix medalist, in turn, decided to change up his world as a means to further evolve both as an individual and athlete.
Brown, who had been training in Monument, Colorado for several years prior to making this change, announced last spring that he was going to relocate to Toronto to work with Brian Orser, Tracey Wilson and their coaching team.
Brown, who was renowned for his exceptional skating fundamentals due to the guidance of his previous longtime coach, Kori Ade, said he has been working, over the past year, on approaching his skating from a different perspective.
“I’ve been working toward the U.S. Championships. I’m excited about (being there) and am focused on day-to-day training,” said Brown. “I think I came (to Toronto) with a strong base and built upon that.”
Brown said he feels he and his current coaching team have hit an optimal stride in terms of their communication, which he believes is key in regard to his stature, growth and development.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned (from being in Toronto) is our communication has gotten stronger and better (over the past year)”, said Brown. “It’s a lot more confidence I have in knowing what to expect and knowing what our relationship is as a coach and athlete.”
According to Brown, Orser oversees all aspects of his skating, while Wilson, the 1988 Canadian Olympic bronze dance medalist, serves as his primary coach and focuses on his daily training plan.
He also works closely with Karen Preston, the two-time Canadian champion, and Lee Barkell on all of his technical elements.
Brown said in regard to his skating, he feels he has much more to give.
“I’m so proud of my career and everything I’ve done, but I knew I had more to give and that physically I wasn’t done,” said Brown.
Ultimately, it seems like Brown is planning to show everyone in Detroit he is anything but done with his skating, which certainly should be exciting.
Zhou, whose hometown is Palo Alto, California, and who trains with Tammy Gambill, Tom Zakrajsek and Christy Krall in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has been working steadfastly on further strengthening his triples and quads this season.
He plans to skate to ‘Exogenesis Symphony Part 3’ by Muse for his short (choreographed Lori Nichol) and the ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and ‘Rising Sun’ film soundtracks (created by Jeffrey Buttle) for his long program.