Where EAST meets the Northwest
Nathan Chen of the United States stands on the podium after winning the gold
medal during the Menís Free Skating Program at the Figure Skating World
Championships in Stockholm, Sweden, on March 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Nathan Chen of the United States performs during the Menís Free Skating
Program at the Figure Skating World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden, on March
27, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Yuma Kagiyama of Japan performs during the Menís Free Skating Program at the
Figure Skating World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden, on March 27, 2021.
Kagiyama took the silver medal. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Nathan Chen wins third straight worlds title in Stockholm
The Associated Press
March 27, 2021
STOCKHOLM (AP) ó Nathan Chen already has established himself as one of
Americaís greatest figure skaters. His performance on Saturday lifted him into
the company of historyís best worldwide.
In becoming the first American since Scott Hamilton to win a third
consecutive World Figure Skating Championships menís title, the 21-year-old Chen
also outskated two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. And Chen
believes he has been ó and can be ó even better.
"I wouldnít say this is my best free program ever," he said. "But itís one I
will definitely remember forever and cherish, being able to skate like that and
skate this piece here at worlds."
Chen was dynamic in easily surpassing short program winner Hanyu and stamp
himself as the man to beat at next yearís Beijing Olympics. Hanyu struggled
mightily and fell to third place behind 17-year-old countryman Yuma Kagiyama,
who took silver in his first senior worlds.
"The fact Iím able to be here at this world championships after this
unprecedented year, itís amazing. Iím elated right now," Chen said. "I just
tried to really remind myself to enjoy being here. I donít know how many more
world championships Iíll get to be at. Doing that, I was able to be a lot more
No one has had the jumping mastery of Chen. His "Quad King" reputation is
well founded, and he landed his five four-rotation jumps with what NBC analyst
Johnny Weir dubbed "technical wizardry." But there was more to it: an intensity,
even a ferocity, as if Chen was conquering each quad rather than simply
completing them. Plus a balance of artistry and technique that has improved
since 2017, when Chen won his first of five successive U.S. titles.
Even the look on his face at the conclusion of his free skate was intensely
focused rather than celebratory.
Besides, Chen had to await Hanyuís performance, which was, for the Japanese
star, rather pedestrian. He opened up on two jumps, had sloppy landings on
others, and seemed to know it was not nearly enough when he shook his head
before taking a bow and leaving the ice.
Hanyu, whose artistry is unmatched among todayís men, might not have been at
his best physically.
"Coming into this competition I have been working a lot on my quad axel and
so I have overworked my body," he said. "So it is important to get my body well.
I want to go back to practicing it again. I want to be the very first person to
land it cleanly in an official competition."
That wonít happen for a while with the major events of a truncated season
concluded. Itís possible Chen and Hanyu wonít face off again until Decemberís
Grand Prix Final ó or perhaps even until the Olympics.
Kagiyama couldnít sit still awaiting his marks after a personal best by 11
points in which he landed three quads and, despite a couple of bobbles, was a
solid second to Chen in the free skate. Kagiyama leaped and ran in place in the
kiss-and-cry zone, then sat and practically danced in his seat as the magnitude
of his achievement hit home.
"When I go back to Japan, I want to practice more because today I have seen
so many things I need to work on," he said. "So with that takeaway I want to go
back on the ice immediately."
Hamilton won four successive worlds from 1981 to 1984. Since then, three
others (Canadaís Kurt Browning and Patrick Chan, Russiaís Alexei Yagudin) have
gotten three in a row.
Chen has not lost a competition since the 2018 Olympics, when perhaps the
worst short program of his career doomed him. He rallied with a spectacular free
skate to climb from 17th place to fifth.
Heís been unmatched since, winning at worlds, nationals, Skate Americas, and
Grand Prix Finals. And the quads keep on coming, though he chuckled when Hanyu
mentioned a 4 1-2 rotation quad axel.
"I am looking forward to next season and what everyone else brings to the
table," Chen said, "and challenging myself to be as good as I can be."
A fourth-place finish for Mikhail Kolyada assured Russia, which is having an
outstanding worlds, of three menís spots at Beijing. The United States and Japan
also are assured that.
American Jason Brown, who doesnít have the bigger jumps to match the
medallists but is masterful at artistry, finished seventh.
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