By Liz Leamyy
(26 November 2017) It was a showdown to remember as menís singles contenders faced off against one another in the free skate at the 2017 Bridgestone Skate America Grand Prix. Excitement abounded at the Herb Brooks Arena as this contingent of contenders took the ice in hopes of scoring medal winning performance as well as earn a slot at the Grand Prix Final.
Nathan Chen, the 18 year-old jumping sensation and reigning U.S. Champion claimed gold with his interesting interpretation of the film score from "Maoís Last Dancer," choreographed by Lori Nichol. It wasnít Chenís finest performance, scoring second in the free skate, but his lead from the Short Program carried the day to win the gold medal.
Chen landed two clean quad Lutzes, but he fell on quad flip, popped a quad Salchow attempt to a double, popped a quad toe loop attempt to a double and then doubled a planned triple Salchow on the end of the planned quad toe loop combination, fell on a solo quad toe loop (improvised from a planned triple Axel), and singled a triple Axel attempt.
Despite the imperfections, Chen had scored enough points (71.76) to win the Menís event with a 275.88 total score, to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.
For Chen, it was all about learning from his experience at this event and being grateful to have had the opportunity to get out on the ice and skate.
ďNo matter what, good or bad, itís always a good experience [to get out there],Ē said Chen. ďIím glad I was able to qualify for a spot at the Final.Ē
Adam Rippon, who has earned a reputation as one of the premiere performers at the elite competitive level, particularly over the past few seasons, was first in the free skate which put him in second place overall for his artful and crisp program to "Arrival of the Birds" and "O" by Coldplay, for which he was awarded 177.41 points in the free skate and 266.45 overall.
Like Chen, Rippon trains in Lakewood, California under the tutelage of Rafael Arutunian and also qualified for the Grand Prix Final due to his high finish at this event.
Winning the free skate and finishing with silver at this event was also quite a feat considering Rippon had dislocated his right shoulder after a step out (and near fall) on his downgraded quad Lutz right at the beginning of his program. Rippon hesitated momentarily after the Lutz, moved his arm to pop it back into place and continued with his program.
Afterwards, he said that he had dislocated his shoulder before in practice at home, and once he tested his arm with a few movement as he continued the program he focused on the job he had to do.
ďI always love a challenge and wanted to show my character and that Iím up for anything, including the Olympic Games,Ē said Rippon, a Scranton, Pennsylvania native. ďIím pretty tough and resilient in my everyday life, so when the pressureís on, I [believe] I can do anything.Ē
In his free skate, Rippon, 28, executed a full compliment of superior elements, including a triple flip-triple loop, triple Axel-double toe-double loop, triple Axel, triple flip-triple toe, triple Lutz and triple Salchow, for a total of eight triple jumps. He also did gorgeous flying spins and a textbook layback that drew huge applause from the crowd.
Sergei Voronov of Russia clinched bronze and a Grand Prix Final spot with his high-energy free skate to the Sarabande Suite by Aeternae, for which he was scored 169.98 points, giving him a 257.49 total score.
A technical master, the 30-year old Russian reeled off a quad toe-triple toe, triple Axel-double toe-double loop, triple Lutz, triple Salchow-double toe, triple loop and double Axel with ease, strength and confidence.
Perhaps more evident than anything was Voronovís visible quickness in the air and his incredible ability to always land, like a cat, on his feet, designating him a real force in menís skating right now.
ďIím glad I made it to the Grand Prix Final and will see these guys [Chen and Rippon] very soon,Ē said Voronov. ď[My success] so far this season has been the merit of my coach, choreographer, myself and hard work.Ē
Boyang Jin (CHN) moved up from sixth in the short ot a fourth place finish. He landed three quads and seven triple, though not without a few errors. In finishing fourth he earned the sixth slot for the Grand Prix Final, edging out Jason Brown on a tie breaker. Both skaters had earned 22 points in their two Grand Prix events, but Jun's higher scores broke the tie.
Ross Miner (USA) was also a big crowd favorite. He placed fifth skating a dynamic and entertaining program to a Queen medley, for which he earned 148.03 points and a total score of 219.62 points, moving him from eighth in the short program to sixth overall.
Miner, who trains with Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson in Revere, Massachusetts, did a big triple Axel-double toe, triple Lutz-triple toe, triple flip, triple loop and other strong elements that should put him in good stead with the approach of the 2018 U.S. Championships in San Jose in December.
Maxim Kovtun (RUS) withdrew from the event prior to its start due to a foot injury sustained in the Short Program. Daniel Samohin (ISR) dislocated his left shoulder early in his program when he fell on a quad Salchow attempt. Samohin struggled off the ice with his arm out of joint and in obvious pain. He was not able to continue (the rules allow a maximum of three minutes to receive medical attention in an attempt to continue) and withdrew.