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2022 Nationals: Senior Men

by Liz Leamy

Vincent Zhou

Chen Takes Sixth Consecutive U.S. Title

(10 January 2022) Nathan Chen, the three-time World champion, added another U.S. title to his extraordinary skating resume at the U.S. Championships at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Sunday, where he triumphantly claimed the U.S. crown for the sixth consecutive time due to his electric free skate to an Elton John medley earning a 212.62 for a 328.01 total score.

Right from the moment he took the ice, Chen, wearing black and a shirt adorned with orange, red and green flame embellishments, took command of the entire Bridgestone Arena, skating with his characteristic presence, execution and delivery, much to the delight of everyone.

The accomplished and talented Salt Lake City native wowed the crowd with a soaring quad flip-double toe loop, quad Salchow, quad Lutz, quad toe-half loop-quad flip, triple Axel and triple toe loop, all for which he was awarded plus four and plus five grade of execution marks from the nine-member judging panel.

Chen did falter on the landing of a triple flip, however, which turned out to only be a momentary blip from which he instantly recovered.

Chen, who is enrolled at Yale University and plans to study there full time again in the fall of 2022 after taking some time off due to his preparation for the upcoming Olympic Games, also performed high-energy spins with clean lines and extension as well as some terrific footwork.

At the conclusion of Chen’s performance, the crowd also gave him a thunderous standing ovation.

“I had a lot of fun and the crowd was amazing,” said Chen. “It was great to be here in Nashville and perform in front of people.”

Chen also gave props to his longtime coach, Rafael Arutyunyan, for helping him to have achieved this point in his skating career.

“A lot of the success I’ve had is credited to him,” said Chen, who has been skating with Arutyunyan since age 13. “I can’t do this all by myself and I’ve had really great people in my life and career.”

Ilia Malinin, the 2019 U.S. Novice bronze medalist, soared right into the center of the sport’s celebrity spotlight with a stellar second-place finish for his superb free skate to Autograf’s ‘Nobody Knows’ and ‘Golden Age’ by Woodkid.

In his program, Malinin knocked out four spectacular quads along with five solid triples (through the Axel) with attack, command and textbook-like air positions that have been described as some of the finest in the sport by coaches and other skating insiders.

Malinin, who trains with his mother, Tatiana Malinina, a former Olympian and Roman Skorniakov in Reston, Virginia and also Rafael Arutyunyan in Lakewood, California, scored a 199.02 for this program to generate a hefty 302.48 total.

From the second Malinin began his program, he electrified the crowd as he ticked off his library of ultra-difficult of jumps and spins with the same ease, ownership and skill as that of a premiere seasoned global skater.

For Malinin, being at this U.S. Championships was a victory unto itself while having wound up on the podium was a wonderful and unexpected bonus to that.

“I’m really grateful for my skate today,” said Malinin. “I’m grateful to be here with all of these top athletes.”

Malinin said he was very happy with his performance.

“I was surprised at how it all came together and I’m really excited for this moment,” said Malinin. “It definitely gives me a lot of motivation to keep doing my best and to improve in the future.”

Vincent Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, scored his fourth U.S. Championship medal at this event, claiming bronze with a 290.16 total score.

Zhou, who was second in the short, put the proverbial pedal to the metal with a compelling program to the music from the ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ soundtrack by Tan Dun for which he was awarded a 177.38, the fourth highest in this portion of the competition.

In his program, Zhou reeled off a stellar quad flip, quad Salchow, triple Axel and several other jumps for which he earned a majority of plus-four grade of execution marks.

Zhou did however, miss two quad Lutzes and touched down on the landing of a quad toe loop that caused him to lose some critical points.

Still, Zhou’s stellar work validated his headliner status at this event, as the crowd roared for him throughout his performance and gave him a standing ovation.

“Nashville has been very kind to all of us athletes,” said Zhou. “I’m just very grateful to be here and have the opportunity to make the Olympic team.”

Jason Brown, the 2015 U.S. Champion, was fourth with the third-best free skate of the event.

His superb ‘Schindler’s List’ program featured such notable elements as big triple Axels, soaring triple flips and triple Lutzes and his signature spins, for which he earned high grade of execution marks.