by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
The men’s competition at Skate America included ten U.S. skaters and two Israelis who train in the USA, who performed at a good level.
No surprise at all that two time World Champion Nathan Chen of Irvine, California, won the competition, this time with 299.15 points. During this summer he remained in California because his Yale University on the East Coast offered only online classes. His new short program music is “Asturias“ and “Cancion del Mariachi“ from the soundtrack of “Desperado“ by the Spanish folk group Los Lobos.
Chen opened the Flamenco with an excellent combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop. His triple Axel also got mainly GOEs of +4, as well as the quad flip later. His outstanding step sequence even had six GOEs of +5 and one +4. Winning 111.17 points was a personal best for him. He said: "The program itself is new to me and there is still a lot of work and improvement to be done. In this program, although it is oriented in Latin-American as well as Spanish music, I am not trying to necessarily hit the identical movements of those dances, but we’re more trying to bring out the character of the movie.“
In the free, he interprets four pieces of composer Philip Glass, beginning with "Metamorphosis." Chen had studied this composer at Yale University. He began with an excellent combination of quad flip and triple toe loop, followed by two outstanding triples and a double Salchow which was planned quadruple. Later he added two quad toe loops, one in a sequence with triple flip. Near the end he popped the Axel. Spins and steps were excellent and his components had an average of 9.3.
Shae-Lynn Bourne created both programs. Later he explained: “Of course I'm a little disappointed about the jumps that I missed. I made quite a few big mistakes in that program, things I shouldn’t have made mistakes on. I'm just thrilled to be here at this competition, so thankful to everyone who has been involved, to bring us together and how smoothly it went so that skaters just could focus on skating.”
Vincent Zhou won an expected silver medal with 275.10 points. He returned from his training site in Toronto to Colorado Springs just before the pandemic and left Lee Barkell and Lori Nichol on good terms. Christy Krall is his main coach now and saw that his posture is better and his head is up. His short program music is the song “Starry, Starry Night“ (Vincent) about the painter van Gogh. The Canadian ice dancers Gilles & Poirier had used this music two years ago. His first element was an impressive combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop, followed by a quad Salchow. Later he said: “I think I did a great job, especially with the components, the projection, the performance. I had some shaky practices, mentally maybe not the best day, but I got it together.”
In the free, he interpreted “Algorithm“ and “The Dark Side“ by Muse. He fell on his opening quad Lutz, but repeated the jump in a good combination with triple toe loop. Five good triple jumps followed and only the quad Salchow was under-rotated and stepped out. He commented: “Obviously, there were a few hiccups in the program, but overall I am very proud of myself for what I did in this competition.“
Keegan Messing (28) lives in Alaska and probably is the only Canadian skater to compete at a Grand Prix this season after Skate Canada was cancelled. He won the bronze medal in Las Vegas with 266.42 points, using both program music pieces of last season. He started his short routine to “Perfect“ by Ed Sheeran with a soso combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop. His triple Axel was excellent, his triple Lutz as well and his spins were outstanding. He explained: “I was overall very excited about how my performance went, this being the first time I’ve skated in front of a ‘crowd’ this year, I was very happy to put a clean program out there. I’m just really happy to go out and feel the butterflies again,”
He opened his free program to “November Rain“ by Guns N‘ Roses with an excellent combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop, followed by a second very good quad toe loop. Five more triples were impressive, but one combination and the triple flip not clean. “I am pretty stoked on how I skated today“, he commented. “I had two little bobbles in the program, but this is one of the few times that I've actually been able to go out and leave everything I had out on the ice. Going into the long program, I thought this is for you guys, in Canada, to everybody who has to stay home. I am so proud that I was able to come here and have a safe competition.”
Tomoko Hiwatashi, trained by Damon Allen and Christy Krall in Colorado Springs, came fourth, earning 254.30 points. The 2019 Junior World Champion who was third at U.S. Nationals 2020, opened his short program to “Standards“ by Leslie Odom Junior with an excellent quad toe loop, followed by a shaky triple Axel and a good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. He began his free program with a very good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, but popped the second quad. Five more triple jumps were good, but he fell on the second triple Axel. His steps were excellent.
Ilia Malinin’s fifth place with 220.31 points was a positive surprise because he is only 15 years old and was only 16th at his first Junior Worlds in March 2020. His parents are Tatiana Malinina who skated for Usbekistan and won the Grand Prix Final in 1999, and his father Roman Skorniakov who competed at several World championships. Since March, Ilia learnt the quad toe loop and the quad Salchow and presented both clean jumps in both parts of Skate America. In the short, he added a solid triple Axel, in the free, he also performed five good triples and an under-rotated toe loop. His style is still junior-like, but he is very promising.
Alexei Bychenko from Israel left the rinks in Hackensack, New Jersey, with the whole Israeli team in September and now trains in the Montclair University Ice Arena. The 32-year-old skater finished sixth with 214.62 points. He started his short with an excellent triple Axel, but stepped out of a quad toe loop. His triple Lutz was not perfect, the other elements good. His first element in the free was a clean combination of quad and double toe loop, but he stepped out of the second quad. Two triples were good, but he made two more mistakes.
At the age of 13, Alexei Krasnozhon came from St. Petersburg in Russia to the USA. When he turned 18, he hired an attorney and spent many hours with him to fill out the many forms and to bring documents (for example photos of him on podiums) for a petition as an athlete of extraordinary abilities. He finally received his Green Card in September 2020, after waiting longer than usually. But Krasnozhon still has to hope that he gets U.S. citizenship before the Olympic Games which he needs in case he qualifies for 2022. With his Green Card he is finally allowed to work. He kept his residency in Texas, but followed his coach Alexei Letov to Norwood near Boston to train there, sharing an apartment with team mates Jimmy Ma and Misha Mitrofanov.
At Skate America, he finished seventh with 214,61 points, just .01 points less than Bychenko. In his short, he performed to “Heart Upon my Sleeve“ by Avicii and the Dragons. He began with a good quad loop (which was called a triple loop by the jury first), followed by a very good triple Axel, but his combination of triple flip and double toe loop and two spins were a bit shaky. In the free to “Dracula“, he fell on the under-rotated quad, but continued with five good triples. The triple Lutz got an edge call, he doubled a combination which was planned triple and the last spin got no points.
Maxim Naumov of Boston finished on eighth position with 214.27 points. The 19-year-old skater’s parents and coaches Evgenia Shishkova and Vadim Naumov were World Champions in pair skating for Russia in 1994 and moved to the USA after their marriage and career. Maxim won the Junior title at U.S. Nationals 2020 and was fifth at Junior Worlds 2020. In Las Vegas, he opened his short program to “Run“ composed by the Japanese song writer Joji with a soso combination of triple flip and double toe loop, followed by a triple Axel with touchdown and step out. His free program music pieces are “Unstoppable“ by E.S. Posthumus and “Stabat Mater“ by Woodkid. Four triple jumps were good, but he landed the double toe loop after the triple Axel on two feet. He fell on the second triple Axel and the flip had an edge call.
Camden Pulkinen placed ninth, earning 207.82 points. He trains in Colorado Springs under Tammy Gambill and Damon Allen and was seventh at U.S. Nationals 2020. Her opened his short program to “Caruso“ with a clean combination of triple Lutz and double toe loop, followed by a fall on the triple Axel, a jump which he normally lands in excellent quality. The triple flip and the other elements were good, but the step sequence no longer in the same quality as two years ago. In the free program to “Close Your Eyes“ by Rhodes, six triple jumps were good, but he fell on the second triple Axel and doubled a Lutz - toe loop combination. He did not try a quad.
Jimmy Ma landed on tenth place with 196.98 points. He had left his coach Peter Cain and moved with his new coaches Alexei Letov and Olga Ganicheva to Norwood near Boston. Last season he was 13th at U.S. Nationals and 4th at the Finlandia Trophy. In the short he popped the toe loop which was planned quadruple, The triple Axel was almost clean and the combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop shaky. In the Free to two music pieces by Linkin‘ Park, he stepped out of the double toe loop after the quad toe loop and the second quad had a scratchy landing. Three triple jumps were clean, but three others and the step sequence not.
17-year-old Joseph Kang, student of Viktor Pfeifer in Wilmington, Delaware, came 11th with 192.37 points on his senior debut after being sixth in the junior category of U.S. Nationals 2020. His triple Axel had no smooth end, he overturned the triple Lutz before the triple toe loop and he touched the board with his body. In the free, he popped the Salchow and fell on the first triple Axel, but had five clean triples. Daniel Samohin from Israel ended up 12th with 184.54 points. He had been nominated as an alternate for Canadian Stephen Gogolev who is injured. In the summer Samohin and his father and coach had moved from San Diego to Las Vegas because the San Diego rink closed permanently. He opened his short program with a good combination of triple Lutz and double toe loop, but fell on the triple Axel and doubled the flip. In the free program to the soundtrack of “The Peacemaker,“ only three triples were good, three more jumps shaky and he fell on two.
Czech skater Michal Brezina, who trains in Irvine, California, had been nominated for Skate America, but withdrew two weeks before the event after a hard fall in practice. Two days after Skate America he and several other skaters (among them Stephen Gogolev and the Knierims) were evacuated from their house because of heavy smoke which came from burning hills in the area. Their brand new homes, however, seemed not to be in danger.