After a disappointing third-place finish at Skate America, Chen bounces back and takes gold in a dominant victory in Vancouver.
Courtesy of US Figure Skating
Nathan Chen ’24 is back to his winning ways.
Chen claimed first place this past weekend at 2021 Skate Canada International at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver. The three-time world champion earned a total of 307.18 points en route to a resounding 47.63 point margin of victory. 2015 United States National Champion Jason Brown came home with the silver medal with a score of 259.55, while Evgeni Semenenko of Russia rounded out the podium with 256.01 points.
“I definitely had better outings here than I did at Skate America,” Chen said in a press conference following his free skate. “So I think this is a step forward, and as always with competitions, I want to push myself a little bit forward, a little bit forward, even if it means taking out an element to be a little cleaner.”
Only a week removed from a surprising third-place finish at Skate America, Chen opted for a safer jump layout in both his short program and his free skate. In his short program, he swapped his quad toe-triple toe combination for a quad flip-triple toe, and his free skate featured four quad jumps as opposed to the six he attempted last week. The Salt Lake City native explained that the decision was also influenced by “a little bit of a hip thing” that he is dealing with.
In the short program, Chen earned a score of 106.72 points in a near-spotless performance. He landed his first jump — the quad lutz that he missed in Las Vegas — and cruised to a 12.72-point lead heading into the free skate.
“Yes! Nathan Chen is back,” 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski said on the NBC Sports television broadcast of the event as Chen skated off the ice. “The ‘quad king’ is back in his true perfect form. That was a great short program.”
Saturday’s free skate featured more of the same dominance, as he registered a score of 200.46 points to run away with the gold medal.
Perhaps more important than the score, however, was Chen’s quick and graceful silencing of any doubts of his abilities as the 2022 Winter Games approach.
“This is a beautifully strong message to anybody that doubted Nathan Chen after his performance at Skate America,” three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir said on NBC Sports airwaves following the free skate. “The whole world was worried about him around him, but he was not worried about himself, and that came through.”
Chen’s Skate Canada victory did not come without hiccups. Rafael Arutunian, Chen’s coach, had his accreditation revoked after a violation of COVID-19 violations, as first reported by NBC Sports.
Arutunian reportedly left the “bubble” environment inadvertently due to a lack of directional signage within the venue. However, Arutunian was allowed to watch Chen’s free skate from the stands within the arena — a non-bubble enclosed part of the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
“In this case, what went down was appropriate,” Chen said about the situation. “That being said, I’m glad he was still able to be in the arena and that he was able to give me a quick call before I stepped on the ice.”
Each skater is assigned to no more than two Grand Prix events. Chen now must wait for the remaining four events to transpire to determine his Grand Prix Final fate. His gold medal at Skate Canada along with his bronze at Skate America, however, should all but ensure his inclusion in the field of six in Osaka, Japan come December.
The next Grand Prix event is the 2021 Gran Premio d’Italia, to be held at the Torino Palavela in Turin from Nov. 5-7.