By Gina Capellazzi, Team FSO website administrator
Header photo by Robin Ritoss
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — Nathan Chen won his fourth consecutive Skate America title inside an empty Orleans Arena in Las Vegas Oct. 24, but it wasn’t a flawless program for the two-time World Champion and four-time U.S. Champion.
The 21-year-old, who was in first place after the short program, opened his program, which is to music selections by composer and pianist Philip Glass, with a quad flip-triple toe combination, but then doubled his second planned quadruple jump, a quad salchow. Later in the program, on his last jumping pass, Chen popped his triple Axel.
“I was a little disappointed about the jumps that I missed. I shouldn’t have done that, ” Chen said about the mistakes. “I’m just thrilled to be at this competition and I’m so thankful for everyone that has been involved in putting this together and how smoothly everything went so that skaters could just focus on skating.”
Chen’s fourth consecutive Skate America title matches the record shared by two-time Olympic medalist and five-time World Champion Michelle Kwan, six-time U.S. Champion Todd Eldredge and 2014 Olympic champion ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
2019 World bronze medalist and two-time U.S. silver medalist Vincent Zhou, who was in second after the short program, finished behind Chen, taking home the silver medal, which is his first Grand Prix medal despite being on the Grand Prix circuit since the 2017-2018 season. Zhou, who turns 20 on Oct. 25, opened his “Algorithm” by Muse free skate with a fall on his quad Lutz, but recovered to execute a quad Lutz-triple toe combination shortly after. A quad Salchow later in the program was also called under-rotated by the technical panel. Despite what he called a few “hiccups” in his free skate, Zhou said he is proud of what he was able to put out on ice during the competition.
“I’m really proud of what I did at this competition especially considering I had done some pretty stupid stuff in the practices and I may have gotten my mind set into places where it shouldn’t be,” Zhou said in the press conference following the free skate. “I’m always out there fighting to do the best that I can and I’m proud of my fight this week and I’m proud going in and getting that second quad Lutz. I’m also happy with the way I performed both programs. Obviously, there is always room for growth. I’m proud of taking charge of my own skating and making strives in artistry.”
Canada’s Keegan Messing, who was in third place after the short program, earned the bronze medal, after just missing that podium last year at this event. Messing, who trains in Anchorage, Alaska, was the lone Canadian competing at the event, and with the cancellation of Skate Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, Oct. 30-31, the 2018 Olympian will be the only Canadian to compete in the 2020-2021 Grand Prix Series, which are being held this season as domestic events open to skaters who live and train in that country, due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“I’m pretty stoked at how I skated today. I had two little bobbles in the program, but this is probably one of the few times that I have actually been able to go out and leave everything that I had out on the ice, ” Messing said of his free skate.
“Going into the long program, right before I stepped into my starting position, I thought ‘this is for you guys’ to Team Canada, to everybody that has to stay home from this unfortunate pandemic that is going around,” the 28-year-old added. “I’m so proud that we are able to come here and have a safe competition. To have the opportunity to compete and leave everything that I had out on the ice, it is just icing on the cake. I’m carrying (the Canadian flag) with honor. I’m so incredibly proud to win my second Grand Prix medal here.
2019 World Junior Champion and 2020 U.S. bronze medalist Tomoki Hiwatashi finished just off the podium, in fourth place at his first Skate America competition. This is just the 20-year-old’s second Grand Prix Series season. Hiwatashi doubled his second quad toe-loop and fell on the second triple Axel in his jazz medley free skate choreographed by 2006 Olympic silver medalist ice dancer Ben Agosto.
“There are a lot of things I kind of need to improve in. I’ve been lacking consistency lately and I think that is kind of what I need to work on,” Hiwatashi told the media after his free skate.
“I feel like he (Ben Agosto) knows me very well. This goes the same for Mark Pillay (who choreographed my short program). They both know me very well and they both understand what I’m missing and what I need throughout my skating. That is one thing that I really love about working with them,” Tomoki said, noting that Agosto was at the Broadmoor Arena in Colorado Springs until the end of Aug. before leaving to prepare for Canada’s Battle of the Blades competition where he is working as the choreographer for former Canadian women’s ice hockey player Jessica Campbell and her partner Canadian ice dancer Asher Hill.
Ilia Malinin, the youngest competitor at the event at the age of 15, secured the fifth place spot in his senior Grand Prix debut. Malinin delivered two quadruple jumps, a quad-toe and quad salchow, in both his short and free skate.
“I feel I did really good. I think I did really good for my standards. Obviously, it could have been much better but it is what it is,” said Malinin after his skate.
Malinin will now prepare for two U.S. Championship Series events, in Leesburg, Va. and Alpharetta, Ga. where he will attempt to qualify for the 2021 U.S. Championships.
Israel’s Alexei Bychenko finished in sixth place. For the full results of the men’s event, click here.