Only three quadruple jumps for Nathan Chen this week, yet the U.S. champion still made history.
The 18-year-old phenom landed his first quad loop in competition, becoming the first skater to master five different four-revolution jumps minus the one quad no man can land — the Axel.
Chen isn’t ready to unleash them all in one competition yet, though. He landed a quad flip and quad Lutz in addition to the loop between two programs at the U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City on Thursday and Friday.
Chen won his Olympic season debut at the rink where he began skating as a toddler.
He tallied 275.04 points, distancing 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron by 13.48 points at a lower-level event featuring none of the sport’s international contenders. Full scores are here.
Chen scored 18.58 more points than his season debut last year, when he attempted seven quads and fell on three. But he wasn’t fully satisfied, lamenting doubling a planned quad toe loop Friday.
Afterward, he reportedly shot down chatter that he could attempt seven quads in one free skate later this season.
“That’s a little crazy talk, I think,” Chen said, according to the Deseret News. “I think that there’s a lot of potential with the programs that I have right now. Adding a bunch of quads is not really the main priority. It’s building back to where I was, and to keep on evolving the rest of the program.”
Where was Chen last winter? In a class by himself in number of quads.
He landed a record seven quads at the U.S. Championships in January and again at the Four Continents Championships at the PyeongChang Olympic venue in February, when he beat Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu. He was sixth at the world championships, attempting a record six quads in the free skate alone but falling twice.
Chen is preparing for the bigger events this fall and winter, starting with his Grand Prix debut at Rostelecom Cup in Russia in a month.
Earlier Friday, Japan’s Marin Honda topped the women’s short program in Salt Lake City. The 16-year-old world junior champion from 2016 landed all of her jumps cleanly for 66.90 points.
Three of the top four women from last season’s U.S. Championships also skated in an early preview of competition for three Olympic spots. The team will be chosen after nationals in January.
U.S. champion Karen Chen, silver medalist Mariah Bell and fourth-place finisher Mirai Nagasu each struggled with jumps Friday.
Chen, no relation to Nathan, put her hand down on a triple loop, under-rotated a triple toe loop and scored 66.18 points.
“There was a few minor mistakes, but overall I’m very happy that I was able to stand up on everything,” she said.
Bell fell on the second half of a jumping combination and tallied 60.68.
“I have a lot of improving to do,” Bell said. “It definitely was not my best, by far, but it’s an OK place to start [the season].”
Nagasu attempted a triple Axel — rarely seen in women’s skating — but two-footed the landing, stepped out of another jump and performed a triple-double combination rather than a triple-triple. She still bettered Bell with 63.81 points.
“I’ve been nailing that triple Axel in practice; I really wanted to land it,” Nagasu said. “I’m like mad, but proud of myself at the same time.”
The women’s free skate in Salt Lake City is Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET, streamed on Icenetwork.com for subscribers.
Also Friday, Russian Alina Zagitova won the lower-level Lombardia Trophy in Italy with a point total that ranks her fourth all-time — 218.46.
Only world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva (Zagitova’s training partner) and the last two Olympic champions — Adelina Sotnikova and Yuna Kim — have scored higher under the system in place since 2003.
It’s impressive that Zagitova, the 2017 World junior champion, posted that score so early in a season. And that she did it in her senior international debut.
She edged Japanese Wakaba Higuchi by .83 of a point. Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner was third, 20.1 points behind.
The Lombardia Trophy men’s free skate — with world silver medalist Shoma Uno leading U.S. Olympian Jason Brown by 21.86 points — is Saturday. The event is streamed live here.
The figure skating season continues next week with the last two male world champions — training partners Hanyu and Javier Fernandez — facing off at the Autumn Classic in Montreal. Medvedeva also makes her international season debut in Slovakia.
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