by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
Nathan Chen (USA)
Men's Free Skate
World Champion Nathan Chen celebrated a runaway victory at Skate America 2019 in Las Vegas although his program was not perfect. Skate America was, like last year, in the usual october break at Yale University, so he did not miss any important classes. He earnt 196.38 points in the free and 299.09 total points.
He began his routine to “Rocketman“ by Elton John with an outstanding combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop (two GOEs of +5 and five +4). The quad flip was excellent as well, then he simplified his sequence a bit, performing a quad toe loop, a single Euler and a double instead of a triple flip. His triple Axel was very good, the quad Salchow as well, but he turned the planned second quad toe loop into a double. The second triple Axel in combination with a double toe loop lacked a bit of flow in the landing. His hip hop choreo step sequence was outstanding and had eight GOEs of +5. Two spins were stellar but the Flying Change Foot Combination Spin a bit short. His components were around 9.4, with some 9.75 as highest. Nobody at Skate America 2019 got any 10.
Later Chen said: “I’m pretty happy with the performance today. Again this is the first Grand Prix of the season, so it was nice to be able to put out both programs. I’m pretty happy with the score. There are still a lot of things to improve on, but overall it’s a good starting point. Comparing with the Japan Open, there were pros and cons to both programs. I was a little skeptical at the beginning of the hip hop choreography process just because not many have done it. The thing that persuaded me was that it’s less than 30 seconds of the program, just at the end, and it comes from the actual music. So it’s still part of the program, still part of ‘Benny and the Jets’.”
Compatriot Jason Brown rose from fourth to second place with 255.09 points (171.64 for the free) in his first competition of the season. He had chosen the soundtrack „Schindler’s List“ for his emotional routine, in the first two and a half minutes the darker and not so well-known music pieces, and only in the fourth minutes the main theme. After a clean triple Axel, his triple flip was outstanding, the second Axel excellent and three more triples good, he doubled the loop near the end. His spins and steps were as exquisite as usual and five elements had a few GOEs of +5. Spinning made him nauseous after the car accident in August until just two weeks before Skate America.
He explained: “It was my first debut of this program. I’ve been working really hard on it all summer and getting into the emotion of it and working it through. I think I really tried to put my heart into it here. Obviously this is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. I have always loved the music along with the movie.“
Dmitri Aliev from Russia finished third with 253.55 points. He fell on his opening Lutz which was planned quadruple but performed only with two and a half revolutions. His two quad toe loops (one with a triple toe loop) were good, as well as five more triples, he only popped the triple Axel and had an invalid triple toe loop because this was the third repetition of a jump and only two are allowed. He skated to the famous song „Sound of Silence“ by Disturbed. “This is my first senior Grand Prix medal and obviously I am very pleased about it“, he explained. “This is one of the most important ones in my life after the tough season I had last year.”
Keegan Messing from Canada dropped from third to fourth place, earning 239.34 points. After an excellent triple Lutz he touched with his hand on a quad toe loop, landed the first triple Axel on two feet and singled the second one. The rest of the program to „November Rain“ by Guns N‘Roses was mainly good. Kazuki Tomono from Japan is fifth with 229.72 points. Highlight was a first-class combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, but he made mistakes on three other jumps.
Boyang Jin from China finished on sixth position with 224.98 points. He is no longer as good and consistent as in 2017 and 2018. Israeli skater Alexei Bychenko came seventh with 219.70 points. A quad toe loop and five triple jumps were good, but he fell on a triple Axel and his spins were relatively weak. Junhwan Cha from South Korea missed all three quads he tried and is eighth, earning 219.67 points.
Alexei Krasnozhon of Plano, Texas, finished on ninth position with 216.59 points. He fell hard on his belly on the opening quad flip which was downgraded, but then delivered seven good triple jumps. He said: “Well, I fell hard, painful. It was okay. I mean I’m not going to say I skated great and amazing. I made a mistake and I have to get up and continue my program and that was a good lesson for me.“
Koshiro Shimada is on tenth place, winning 216.22 points, Czech skater Michal Brezina dropped from fifth to 11th place because he doubled or missed five jumps and had only two good triples. Roman Savosin from Russia does not really have a Grand Prix standard, was injured before and finished 12th and last. But he did not want to miss a journey to Las Vegas.
Men's Short Program
The general level of the Men’s Short Program at Skate America 2019 in Las Vagas was not very high because everybody except Keegan Messing made serious mistakes.
World Champion Nathan Chen took the lead with 102.71 points. He skated to the French chanson "La Boheme“ of legendary singer Charles Aznavour, maybe with a view to Worlds 2020 in the mainly French speaking Canadian city of Montreal. He planned his combination first, but stepped out a bit of the quad Lutz and could not add a second jump. His triple Axel was very good, then he added a triple toe loop to the quad toe loop and therefore had a correct and good combination which brought him 17.51 points. His step sequence was outstanding and had three GOEs of +5. Two of his spins were good, but for the Change Foot Combination Spin he only got the basic level. His components were around 9.3.
He commented: “I’m not entirely happy with how the program went, however, since this is the first outing, I’m pretty okay with how things went. During the summer I’m not in classes so I had the opportunity to go back to California and work with Rafael (Arutunian) the entire summer, apart from shows. We used that time wisely and I feel that I grew quite a lot over the summer.”
Russian skater Dmitri Aliev is currently second, earning 96.57 points. He had a bad last season, but is coming back strongly again because the Russian federation helps their skaters a lot to overcome mental problems. His combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop was convincing, the quad toe loop shaky and the triple Axel excellent. His last spin had only a basic level, like Nathan Chen’s. He excelled by an elegant style but was slower than Chen and therefore his components had an average of 8.4. He skated to the French music “Je dors sur les roses” (I Sleep on Roses) from “Mozart L’Opera Rock”. He commented: “Overall I’m pretty pleased with the job I did today. I made a little error on the quadruple toe loop and on a spin, probably this affected my score.“
Former U.S. skater Keegan Messing, now competing for Canada, finished third with 96.34 points. His combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop was excellent, his triple Axel and triple Lutz as well. His spins are always very quickly rotated and his step sequence was very good as well. He used the song "Perfect“ by Ed Sheeran and dedicated the program to his wife who he married this summer.
He commented: “This was the first time I actually got to perform my short program in front of my wife who it is actually made for. This program was the same music that my wife and I danced to on our very first dance, so for her to be here to see it was very special to me. Coming here this week was a huge decision for me with everything that’s happened.” He meant a tragic story in his family in September. His one year younger brother, who was married as well, died in a motor cycle accident. Keegan had to look after his three little kids for some time and missed some practice time.
Jason Brown, who trains in Toronto in his second season, came fourth with 83.45 points. He is fit again after suffering from a concussion in late August in another traffic accident. The car driver who picked him up at the airport to bring him to Champs Champ in Irvine, California, drove over a red traffic light and heavily bumped into another car. Brown had his seat belts fixed, otherwise his injury might have been much more severe. But he needed some weeks of rest and had to skip his first competition which was planned at Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany in late September. His triple flip was outstanding, looked extremely easy and had four GOEs of +5. But then he popped the triple Axel. The rest of his program was stellar again. He chose the music "I Can’t Go Without You“ by Kaleo. He said: "The Axel was a lapse of focus in the moment, I have not missed one all week, but I’m really proud of the overall performance.“
Czech skater Michal Brezina, who trains with Arutunian like Chen, sits on fifth place with 81.11 points. He stepped out of the quad Salchow and his combination was only double flip and triple toe loop. His five other elements were very good.
Israeli skater Alexei Bychenko, who lives in Hackensack, New Jersey, was invited as an alternate for Romain Ponsart. This French skater and boyfriend of U.S. skater Mariah Bell had trained with Rafael Arutunian in California last season, but cannot enter the USA at the moment due to visa problems. Bychenko is sixth with 79.76 points after a clean short program with a quad toe loop, but a combination with double Lutz and triple toe loop.
Junhwan Cha from South Korea, who trains in Toronto, is currently on seventh place, winning 78.98 points. He popped the Salchow which was planned quadruple, but his other elements were very good, including a combination of triple Lutz and triple loop. Kazuki Tomono from Japan is on eighth position with 76.01 points after stepping out of a quad toe loop and performing an almost clean quad Salchow. Boyang Jin from China popped the Lutz and fell on the triple Axel and therefore is only ninth with 74.56 points.
Alexei Krasnozhon of Plano, Texas, sits on tenth place with 72.39 points. His quad flip on which he fell was downgraded. The combination of triple flip and triple loop as well as the triple Axel were good, one spin a bit wobbly. He said: “I feel good. I missed some stuff, but I’ll fix it tomorrow. It’s all part of the learning experience and that it is OK to make mistakes. I also want to say ‘thank you’ to the crowd. It has been awesome competing back home. Being in Las Vegas has been amazing. Seeing that atmosphere of people playing and enjoying themselves is inspiring, because I try to get in the same groove of enjoying myself and just performing. You watch big events and big shows, the musicians and everyone comes here to perform in Las Vegas so for me it really has been about performing in Las Vegas.”
The second Japanese skater Koshiro Shimada, coached by Swiss World Champion Stéphane Lambiel, is 11th after popping his combination. Russian skater Roman Savosin was not in good shape, made three mistakes and sits 12th with 57.92 points.
Nathan Chen first after the Men's Short Program