It appears Nathan Chen is ready to announce his presence to the figure skating world, and Kansas City might be remembered as the place where Chen had his coming out party.
The 17-year-old assumed a commanding lead after the short program in the 2017 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Chen glided and flew along and over the Sprint Center ice to a score of 106.39 – a U.S. record for men’s short program. That’s not just for the U.S. Championships, it’s for all competitions, including the Olympics.
Chen could only say “Wow” the moment he first learned of his score. Later that evening, the achievement was coming into focus.
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“I felt like it’s pushing my limits, so I’m really happy about that,” Chen said. “It’s so fast. It’s what I set out to do, and I’m glad I was able to do it. What happened tonight is what I was pushing toward, and I’m really glad that it happened.”
The rest of the field stands a chance if Chen doesn’t show for Sunday’s free skate. If not, well, it’s an uphill climb.
Ross Miner is in second with a score of 88.67, followed by Vincent Zhou’s 87.85.
Max Aaron, 2013 national champion and silver medalist at last year’s U.S. Championships has a long climb to reach the podium again. He fell on the first jump of his short program, and stumbled two other times, and finished with a score of 72.54, placing him 12th.
Aaron took a minute to compose himself after his routine before addressing the assembled media.
“It’s on me. There’s not a whole lot to talk about. I really didn’t do much,” Aaron said. “No excuses.”
Aaron was the first to skate in the third group.
“I love that spot, being first. It’s just not a good day today. I own up to it. That’s (on) me,” Aaron said.
Friday night’s Short Dance did little to separate the top three tandems seeking to take home the Ice Dancing title.
Defending champions Maia and Alex Shibutani hold a small lead with their performance. The brother/sister team scored 82.42 points. Madison Chock and Evan Bates are in second with 79.96 points, followed closely by Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue’s 79.72 points.
The free skate looms on Sunday, and all three teams are in a position to win.
“I think for us, our mindset is based on the confidence we have in our performance today. We followed our game plan, and we’re very happy with how we skated tonight,” Alex Shibutani said. “That’s going to lead to confidence going into the (free skate), so we’re focused on what we’re supposed to do.”
The margin of error in ice dancing is slim. It might not take a perfect routine to win, but the winning pair might have to be within arm’s reach of it.
“The closeness of the result is nothing new,” Bates said. “We know in ice dance, you don’t have the quads (jumps) you don’t have the volatility in performance. Most people skate clean, and so, for us, the feeling is you have to skate your absolute best to be out there. There is pressure, but the most pressure we feel is from ourselves.”
Three junior U.S. Figure Skating titles were awarded on Friday.
Kaitlyn Nguyen was third in the Junior Ladies competition after the short program. She rallied in the free skate, finishing with 170.16 points, 15 points clear of runner-up Starr Andrews.
Aleksei Krasnozhon won the Junior Men’s title with 211.05 points. Camden Pulkinen finished second.
Rachel and Michael Parsons won the Junior Dance final with 176.33 points.
U.S. Figure Skating Championships
At the Sprint Center
Pairs free skate and free dance, groups 1 and 2, 10 a.m.
Pairs free skate, groups 3 and 4, and free dance, group 3, 1:15 p.m. (2-5 p.m. live on NBC)
Ladies free skate, 6 p.m. (7-10 p.m. live on NBC)
Men’s free skate, 1 p.m. (3-5 p.m. live on NBC)