Sergey Voronov

Despite blade trouble, Nathan Chen leads men at Skate America

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Nathan Chen leads the men’s field at Skate America after tallying 104.12 points, a new personal best, on Friday night.

During the six-minute warm-up before the final group of skaters, Chen could be seen conferring with his coach, Rafael Arutunian, about his blade. He explained on the Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA broadcast that during the warm-up, Arutunian manipulated the blade to fix the edge. They plan on playing with it again so it’s better for Saturday’s free skate.

“There’s a lot of points that I could have gotten last year and I’m making sure I take care of them this year,” Chen said of his personal best, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “The score is still not that close to some of the top men currently, but that’s something that I know is attainable and it’s something I’m going to work toward.”

Arutunian’s other pupil in the men’s field, Adam Rippon, is in second place behind Chen with a personal best of his own – 89.04 points. Sergei Voronov of Russia sits in third place after the short with 87.51 points.

The third American in the field, Ross Miner, popped a triple Axel and didn’t receive any credit for the element. He tallied 71.59 points and sits in eighth place heading into the free.

The free skate will determine which skaters earn a berth to the Grand Prix Final in Japan in two weeks. Chen, despite being a favorite for the Skate America title, can finish anywhere among the top four for a berth to the Final. Voronov can also finish in the top four to make it to the Final. Rippon needs to finish anywhere on the podium.

Plus, with reigning Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu and his training partner Javier Fernandez (a two-time world champion himself) out of the Grand Prix Final, the podium there is wide open. Patrick Chan, a three-time world champion and the Sochi silver medalist, won’t be at the Grand Prix Final either.

MORE: Skate America TV Schedule

Earlier Friday, in the pairs field, Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford scored 75.37 to lead the field after the short program.

China’s Yu Xiaoyu and Zhang Hao followed for second with 73.67 points. Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot, who represent Germany, earned 72.55 points for third place after the short program. All three teams have a chance to qualify for the exclusive Grand Prix Final should the podium stand is after Saturday’s free skate. Even with a shakeup among the top three, it is likely that they will all qualify.

The top American team was married couple Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, who scored 64.27 and are fourth after the short. Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier tallied 63.04 (sixth) and Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay are eighth with 57.18 points.

MORE: Bruno Massot earns German citizenship

Adam Rippon gets second as Russians sweep NHK Trophy (video)

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What a 28th birthday for Adam Rippon.

The 2016 U.S. champion took second in his first top-level competition in 11 months, emphatically returning from a broken foot that kept him out last winter.

Rippon landed an under-rotated quadruple Lutz plus eight triples in his free skate at NHK Trophy on Saturday. He tallied 261.99 points, finishing 9.13 behind Russian winner Sergei Voronov.

“Being 28 rocks!” Rippon said after his skate in Osaka, Japan.

It was a Russian sweep of the singles titles at the fourth of six Grand Prix events this fall.

Olympic super favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva fell in a free skate at a second straight Grand Prix and still extended her two-year winning streak.

NHK TROPHY: Scores | Figure Skating TV Schedule

Conversely, Voronov used a personal best by 18.57 points, along with two quads in his free skate, to win his first Grand Prix in his 12th season. The 30-year-old became the oldest man to win a Grand Prix event by nearly three years (Daisuke Takahashi, 2013 NHK Trophy).

Voronov and Rippon will both compete at Skate America in two weeks, eyeing berths in December’s Grand Prix Final, which takes the top six men from the fall Grand Prix season.

Jason Brown, a 2014 U.S. Olympian and 2015 U.S. champion, saw a great opportunity to all but book his first Grand Prix Final berth slip through his fingers this weekend. Brown, third after the short program, fell on both of his triple Axels in the free skate and ended up fourth.

Brown went into NHK as the leading man after the withdrawals of Olympic gold and silver medalists Yuzuru Hanyu and Patrick Chan.

A runner-up would have put Brown in all-but-safe position to make the Grand Prix Final. Now, he must wait and watch the results of the next two Grand Prix events to see where he stands.

Medvedeva tallied 224.39 points, beating Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 12.15 points. Both Medvedeva and Kostner qualified for December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual event.

Kostner, 30, broke American Todd Eldredge‘s record as the oldest singles skater to qualify for a Grand Prix Final.

Russian Polina Tsurskaya was third, followed by American Mirai Nagasu. Nagasu boosted her resume for Olympic consideration with the highest Grand Prix score by a U.S. woman this season.

U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell was ninth after she placed sixth at her previous Grand Prix. Neither Nagasu nor Bell qualified for the Grand Prix Final.

Also Saturday, Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong won their second Grand Prix in as many weeks. The world champions prevailed by a comfortable 11.79 over Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, the favorites to grab the one U.S. Olympic pairs spot, finished fifth with a score 11.11 points better than any other Americans this season.

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MORE: U.S. Olympic figure skating picture at Grand Prix midpoint

NHK Trophy Results
Men

1. Sergey Voronov (RUS) — 271.12
2. Adam Rippon (USA) — 261.99
3. Alexei Bychenko (ISR) — 252.07
4. Jason Brown (USA) — 245.95

Women
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 224.39
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 212.24
3. Polina Tsurskaya (RUS) — 210.19
4. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 194.46
9. Mariah Bell (USA) — 166.04

Pairs
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 234.53
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 222.74
3. Kristina Astakhova/Alexei Rogonov (RUS) — 203.64
5. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 192.51