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2022 Nationals: Senior Men

by Liz Leamy


Chen Takes Command of U.S. Men’s Competition

(8 January 2022)  On the penultimate day of competition, the country’s finest men delivered the goods, putting out a variety of programs defined by exciting triple and quad jumps, high-velocity spins and innovative footwork, making this another 2022 Nationals moment for the ages.

The programs skated by each of the 14 entrants in this U.S. Championship Men’s short program event were all compelling, with the athletes interpreting narratives that revolved around such basic human themes as love with all of its rewards, complexities and confusion, courage and steadfastness; cultural fads such as disco and renowned film and book storylines such as ‘Man of La Mancha, ‘Malaguena,’ ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and the ‘Black Swan,’ among other things.

Meanwhile, the jumps performed by this contingent were executed with terrific height, strong rotation, a solid axis position and straight body positions, things that resonated in a big way with the crowd who gave them big props.

Nathan Chen (Salt Lake City FSC), the three-time World champion and five-time U.S. titlist, commanded the ice in characteristic kingly manner with an engaging program to ‘La Boheme’ by Charles Aznavour that was designed by Shae-Lynn Bourne, the Canadian World dance champion that racked up a whopping 115.39, numbers that catapulted him to the top of the leaderboard.

Wearing a black outfit reminiscent of a Parisian, Chen skated with his famous warrior-like confidence and knocked out a lightning-like quad flip, triple Axel and quad toe loop-triple toe loop with the aptitude and confidence of a reigning World champion.

Chen also did a gorgeous camel and cannonball spin as well as some high-octane footwork that included rockers, counters, twizzles, Mohawks and Choctaws, among other things.

Throughout this program, Chen commanded the crowd who applauded for him wildly as he ticked off each one of his elements and then went on to give him a thunderous standing ovation.

“I’m happy to start the competition out this way,” said Chen, a Salt Lake City native who trains in Irvine, California with Raphael Arutyunyan. “I’m really excited to be here and skate tomorrow and I’m grateful to have had an opportunity to compete.”

Vincent Zhou (Peninsula SC), the 2019 World bronze medalist and three-time U.S. silver medalist, put the proverbial pedal to the metal and to power out a 115.39 with his emotionally charged program to the music Don McLean’s ‘Vincent’ sung by Josh Groban.

Zhou, who presented this program in poet-like fashion, opened it up with a big quad Lutz-triple toe loop then executed a quad Salchow and triple Axel, all of which he did with quickness, lightness and strength. (The way he pops up off the toe is incredible to see live.)

Zhou also pushed into every step and move on the ice with great energy, spirit and gusto to generate constant flow and speed.

A highlight was watching Zhou execute his quad Salchow in perfect unison with the harmonies of this acoustically beautiful song.

“I’m happy with how it went today and I trusted my instincts,” said Zhou. “It was a pretty incredible competition and shows the depth of talent the U.S. men’s field has.”

Ilia Malinin (Washington FSC) of Reston, Virginia brought the Bridgestone Arena house down with his stunning performance to Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean,’ as sung by David Cook, reeling off an electric quad flip-triple toe loop, quad Lutz and triple Axel with textbook-like air positions along with fast, beautifully extended spins.

For his efforts, Malinin, one of the first to skate in the competition, was awarded a 103.46 and also earned a huge standing ovation from the crowd.  

“I’m grateful to be here with these top-tier athletes,” said Malinin, the 2019 US Novice bronze medalist. “My goal was to skate as best as possible and I’m really happy with how I did it.”

Jason Brown (Skokie Valley SC), the 2015 U.S. titlist, powered out a superb short program to ‘Sinnerman’ for which he earned a 100.84 and brought the crowd to its feet.  His program had the highest component scores of the group.

Brown opened up with a soaring triple flip and then followed it up with a big triple Axel and delayed triple Lutz-triple toe loop that covered more than 30 feet of ice length.

Brown also did a gorgeous flying sit in a cannonball position as well as his signature flying camel in which he catches his free leg at the end and looks up at the sky, a move that generated big applause from the crowd.

Brown’s edges were exquisite and defined by his pushes from such a deep angle that his boots practically touched the ice, something that is always a pleasure to watch in the sport.

For Brown, it’s all about striving to always evolve, something he feels he is effectively able to do through the help of his coaching team, Tracy Wilson and Brian Orser in Montreal.

“My entire team has been all about mitigation,” said Brown. “It’s all about how we can improve consistency, build confidence and develop that package to compete confidently in any situation.”