Nathan Chen ’24 finishes third at Skate America 2021

The three-time world champion took bronze in his first event of the season, ending his 14-game winning streak dating back to 2018.


Journalist


Courtesy of American Figure Skating

For the first time since the 2018 Winter Olympics, a senior-level men’s figure skating competition ended without Nathan Chen ’24 on the podium.

Chen finished in third place last weekend at the 2021 Skate America, held for the third year in a row at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Fellow American Vincent Zhou won the gold medal for his first career Grand Prix victory, and Japan’s Shoma Uno finished second. Chen’s bronze medal marks the end of his 14-game winning streak dating back to 2018 – a race that included three world championships.

“It was inevitably going to end,” Chen said of his streak at a press conference on Saturday. “I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in the past, but at this point the only thing I can do is move on. This is where I think.

Ahead of this weekend, Chen claimed four straight Skate America victories, equaling Todd Eldredge who won his quartet of Skate America gold medals from 1994 to 1997.

In his short program, the Salt Lake City native chose to skate on “Eternity” and “Nemesis” by British artist Benjamin Clementine. Chen fell on his first jump of the night – a quadruple lutz attempt – and also missed a planned quadruple flip-triple toe combination later in his skate. He finished the night in fourth place with a score of 82.89, 14.54 points behind Zhou, who dazzled in his performance in front of Josh Groban’s “Vincent (Starry Starry Night)” and obtained the highest score of the evening with 97.43 points.

“I’m human, I make mistakes and unfortunately it happened today,” Chen said after his short program. “It happens; you just have to learn from it, grow from it.

Courtesy of American Figure Skating

Chen’s musical choice for this Olympic season is interesting. “Nemesis” was also the music Chen used in his short program during the 2017-18 season – including his disastrous performance at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang which saw him place 17th in the short program. By reviving this music for the 2021-22 season, Chen looks set to face his Olympic “nemesis” head-on at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

The five-time United States champion came out of the gates much stronger in his free skate. Skating to a mix of Mozart compositions, Chen performed a quadruple loop to begin his performance. In an attempt to move up the standings, Chen attempted a total of six quad jumps in his free skate. He performed four successfully, including one in an electrifying quadruple toe-euler-double flip combination in the second half of his skate. He had 186.48 points, bringing his weekend total to 269.37.

Zhou’s performance, however, tallied 198.13 points, bringing his weekend score to 295.56 and securing him a gold medal.

“I don’t think it’s sunk yet,” Zhou said after his victory. “I wasn’t really expecting this result, but what I expected from myself was to be as well prepared and trained as possible, and I think focusing on that every day at home has leads to impossible becomes possible.

Courtesy of American Figure Skating

In a interview with NBC Sports after the competition, Chen said he believed his competitors were “more prepared” before the season opener.

Last season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grand Prix season was limited to four events, with competitors being geographically linked to certain events based on their home training grounds to limit travel. This season, however, the Grand Prix roster has reverted to its usual six events followed by the Grand Prix final. Travel restrictions were also lifted, allowing international skaters like Uno to compete in Las Vegas.

“I’m very honored to have finished second because it’s a very high level competition and I think it’s amazing and I’m really aware of it,” Uno said. “But at the same time, when I think about my goals and what I’m aiming to achieve, I face the reality that I’m not there yet.”

Chen will have the opportunity to quickly recover from the rare loss when he competes at the 2021 Skate Canada International from October 29-31. The event – taking place at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Center in Vancouver – is the second event of the Grand Prix season.

The six Grand Prix events include Skate America and Skate Canada, as well as the Gran Premio d’Italia in Turin, the NHK Trophy in Tokyo, the French Open in Grenoble and the Rostelecom Cup in Sochi. The 2021-22 Grand Prix final will take place in Osaka, Japan.

JAMES RICHARDSON




James Richardson covers men’s basketball, squash and sports administration. Originally from South Florida, he is in his first year at Jonathan Edwards College.



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