Nathan Chen, who had a big lead after Friday’s short program, scored 189.99 points in the free skate to secure the figure skating gold medal at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett.
EVERETT – Nathan Chen dialed it back a little bit, but the 19-year-old American skating star was plenty good enough to easily capture the gold medal in the first ISU Grand Prix event of the season.
“The program in terms of quad number was definitely watered down,” said Chen, who was dubbed the “King of Quad” after performing a record six quadruple jumps at the 2018 Olympic Games. “But I think that in terms of where I am in the season, right now is definitely perfect.”
Saturday’s men’s free skate, which was performed to “Land of All” by Woodkid, included just three quadruple jumps and drew a standing ovation from a raucous crowd at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett that chanted “M-V-P” and “200” and waved posters with his name.
Chen, who had a big lead after Friday’s short program, tallied 189.99 points. His total score of 280.57 far outpaced second-place finisher Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic (239.51) and was the largest margin of victory in the history of the event.
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Russia’s Sergei Voronov was third with 226.44.
“I’m happy with today’s skate,” Chen said. “Definitely a lot of improvement from the last competition and that’s really my goal throughout the season is to keep on improving from competition to competition.”
Chen, the two-time U.S. and reigning world champion, was the overwhelming favorite this weekend in large part because the competition didn’t include Japanese stars Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno, the Olympic gold and silver medalists.
However, there was a question about how Chen would respond after a lackluster performance in his last outing Oct. 6 at the Japan Open when he fell three times in one program for the first time in his senior career.
Additionally, Chen, a freshman at Yale, admits he’s still adjusting to an intense workload that requires him to balance the demands of a wold-class skater and Ivy League student.
“Every night there’s loads and loads of homework that you have to finish for the next night, which means that it kind of takes away from sleep,” Chen said. “And when you take away from sleep you come into training the next day and you’re like, ‘Man, I can’t do anything.’
“Those are the times when I think about trying to rearrange my time so that I’m able to find the time to sleep, find the time study and find the time to skate. It’s a balance and I’m still learning and there definitely will be harder times ahead, but also times that will be fun and be great.”
In part, Chen’s academic pursuits forced him to scale back what’s been described as the most technically difficult routine in men’s skating.
Saturday’s performance included five triple jumps and an array of complex maneuvers.
“Of course I didn’t attempt all the quads that I think I’m capable of doing,” he said. “Considering having such a new step in life, college and what not, having the extra stress of school I think it’s the right move for me to take a little step back in terms of the technical elements.”
American Vincent Zhou, who was sixth in the short program, delivered an error-free display that earned a personal-best 149.37 points. However, he wasn’t fully credited for his four quadruple jumps and finished sixth.
Meanwhile, U.S. skater Jimmy Ma, who was seventh in the short program, torpedoed his chances at a medal with a couple of early falls and finished last among the 12 competitors.
RUSSIANS FINISH 1-2 IN PAIRS
Barring a catastrophe, Russian couple Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov was going to claim the pairs title because they came into Saturday’s free skate with a nearly insurmountable lead.
Still, the 2016 Grand Prix champions put on a show and delivered a flawless routine set to “The Winter,” a somber, melancholy tune by the band Balmorhea.
The judges awarded them with a season best 133.61 points, which combined with their short-program score gave them 204.85 and the gold medal.
The duo thrilled the crowd with their trademark big throws. Morozov tossed Tarasova, who flew and spun in the air before gracefully landing on the ice.
“We skated a little bit better than yesterday,” Tarasova said. “I feel today’s program was good. We’re happy.”
Russian couple Alisa Efimova and Alexander Korovin remained in second place and took the silver with 178.98 points.
Meanwhile, U.S. pair Ashley Cain and Timothy Leduc improved one spot after the short program and made it to the medal podium with a bronze.
“We were a little bit disappointed with our program yesterday,” Leduc said. “It awakened a fighting spirit in us. We had to reset and refocus today and remember the athletes that we are and the work that we put in.
“We fought for everything today. There were some mistakes and some scarier moments in the program, but I’m really proud of Ashley and the effort that we put. And we couldn’t be happier to have our first medal in the Grand Prix.”
Cain got emotional on the ice after a stunning routine that didn’t include any major gaffes or falls and earned a season-best 117.34 points and 175.06 on combined scores.
“Even though in the long program we had mistakes … what we conquered was so much more than that,” Cain said. “We conquered our own fears. We went out there and were strong together. We stayed together.
“Tim said to me before the program just remember who we are. I felt like at the end of the program we did that. … Moments like that when the crowd is on their feet and they felt something from us, that for me was why I was so excited.”
— Japanese skaters dominated the ladies short program Saturday. Satoko Miyahara (73.86), Kaori Sakamoto (71.29) and Marin Honda (62.74) finished first, second and fourth, respectively. Russian Sofia Samodurova (64.41) was third. Reigning national champion Bradie Tennell (61.72) placed fifth and led an American contingency that included Megan Wessenberg (60.20), who was sixth, and Starr Andrews (56.03), ninth.
— Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue finished first in the rhythm dance with 78.43 points while U.S. couple Lorrainne McNamara and Quinn Carpenter were fourth with 72.44. Italian pair Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri (75.01) were second, followed by Russians Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro (73.30) in third. The competition concludes Sunday with the free dance.
— NBCSN will air live the ladies free skate from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday. NBC will also broadcast the men’s free skate with other event highlights from 9:30-10:30 a.m. The ladies free skate and event highlights will be aired on NBC on Oct. 27 from 12-3 p.m.
— Skate America is the first event in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series that moves to Canada, Finland, Japan, Russia and France before the top six performers in each discipline qualify for the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver, B.C., in December.