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Where EAST meets the Northwest


PYEONGCHANG BOUND. Nathan Chen dazzled with remarkable athleticism to pull off five breathtaking quadruple jumps at the menís free skate event at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, California. The 18-year-old skated well in his final routine and secured his spot at the PyeongChang Olympics. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

From The Asian Reporter, V28, #2 (January 15, 2018), pages 1 & 8.

Nathan Chen dazzles with five quad jumps to win U.S. nationals

By Janie McCauley
The Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif. ó Nathan Chen skated once more in a victory lap of sorts, this time to high-five fans as the newly crowned national champion.

Well, repeat champion.

And oh what a lopsided win he delivered.

Chen dazzled yet again with his remarkable athleticism to pull off five breathtaking quadruple jumps, skating the final routine to a commanding U.S. national title.

With improved poise and style that showed all his growth, not to mention his new Vera Wang costumes, Chen beat second-place Ross Miner with a total score of 315.23 ó a startling 40.72-point margin.

The 18-year-old Chen secured his spot for the PyeongChang Games with his performance. He opened with a quad flip-triple toe loop combination at full speed and with flair, and never looked back. Chen displayed a new maturity and attention to detail such as pointing toes, using his head, and being more expressive with his body.

"I still need time to really wrap my head around this," Chen said. "But this whole season has gone exactly as I wanted it to in terms of all the requirements to make that Olympic team. Honestly at this point in time it is sort of just checking off that box. I still have a lot more to do, but ultimately this is the dream that Iíve wanted for a long, long time. Iíve really strived for it my entire life. And Iíve always wanted to know what it feels like to be on that Olympic team."

Sporting all black, Chen singled his planned triple axel as his only flaw. It hardly mattered with all those memorable quads. Besides the first combination, he also did a quadruple flip stand-alone, quad toe loop with a double toe loop combination, and a quad toe and quad salchow on their own.

Unbeaten this season, Chen is considered the Americansí best hope for a medal. The U.S. Figure Skating selection committee considered his body of work when deciding the three male skaters for the Olympics in South Korea ó Chen, Vincent Zhou, and Adam Rippon.

"Iím very happy with tonight. I laid out a five-quad program, which I havenít been able to do all season," Chen said. "Obviously I made a mistake on the axel and Iíll have to address that at some point back home. Ultimately, Iím very happy with tonight and I think I really did my job here."

Zhou, another prodigious jumper, placed third.

Crowd-pleasing Ross Miner skated a near-flawless routine to a Queen medley and had the SAP Center rocking and clapping along. He pumped his right fist after a double axel that made for a clean, lighthearted program. The 26-year-old Miner earned a standing ovation and beamed while putting his hand to his heart in appreciation. He scored 185.60 for a 274.51 total. He knew he had that performance in him when it mattered most. But Rippon ended up making the Olympic team over Miner.

"I had one of the most fun nights Iíve ever had on the ice," Miner said. "Thatís what I do in training at home and it was such a good feeling to put it out there at the big game and show what Iím capable of. Thatís what I do all the time."

Zhou, a 17-year-old rising star skating in his hometown to "Moulin Rouge!" attempted five quads and completed four in his technically difficult program ó one quad was in combination with a triple ó for a score of 273.83.

The 2017 silver medallist at nationals, Zhou calmed himself moments before he began by shutting his eyes, then opening them with a deep breath. He skated with ease and confidence to nail his first four quadruple jumps before falling on his quad toe loop in the second half of his performance. Some of his jumps looked slightly under-rotated, and he lacked the finesse and pizzazz of someone like Jason Brown or Rippon.

Rippon, second out of the short program and chasing his first Olympics at age 28, fell on his quad lutz but recovered. He then popped his planned triple salchow and triple lutz into singles for fourth place with a score of 268.34.

He has worked tirelessly on his fitness in the past year following a foot injury, seeking to pull off the big jumps like the youngsters. Skating a year to the day since breaking his left foot while gearing up to defend his 2016 national title.

"For what I did today I take full responsibility," Rippon said. "... On the first quad lutz I kind of felt like I was losing my right foot a little bit. And I let that feeling get the best of me toward the end, and just kind of felt like it was gone."

Brown, a 2014 team bronze medallist at the Sochi Olympics, finished sixth. He went into Saturday third after a 93.23 in the short program and finished at 253.68. Brown shortened his quad toe loop rotation to start his free skate and fell before coming back strong with some entertaining, graceful footwork.

Opening ceremonies for the PyeongChang Olympics take place February 9 and the games continue through February 25. To learn more, visit <www.olympic.org/pyeongchang-2018>.

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