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Nathan Chen lands four quads, but Adam Rippon wins U.S. title

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Nathan Chen, 16, became the first man to land four quadruple jumps in a free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but Adam Rippon took his first national title in St. Paul, Minn., on Sunday.

Rippon, 26, fell on his lone quadruple jump attempt (a Lutz, the hardest quad being tried) over two programs, but he was strong enough with the rest of his components to total 270.75 points. Rippon edged short-program leader Max Aaron by 1.2 points for the title.

“My coach is going to drill me into the ground so that I will have the best quads of my life by the time we get to Boston,” Rippon said.

Rippon, in nervous tears hours before the competition and crying again after he saw his score, defended being the second straight U.S. champion without landing a quad.

He leads a three-man team to the World Championships in Boston in two months, with Chen and Aaron, seeking to end a U.S. men’s medal drought since Evan Lysacek‘s World title in 2009.

“If everybody could skate exactly like [Japanese Olympic champion] Yuzuru [Hanyu], the competition would be boring,” said Rippon, who trains and shares a coach with Chen. “It’s not a jump competition. It’s not a choreography competition. It’s not a spin competition. It takes a little bit of everything.

“The talent in U.S. men’s skating is there for the future. Nathan’s doing four quads. Vincent Zhou [eighth place, 15 years old] is trying two. It’s there for the future, but right now, for the present, I wanted to show the best that I could do today.”

Chen posted 266.93 to become the youngest man to finish in the top three at the U.S. Championships since 1973. Rippon, Aaron and Chen were named as the World Championships team two hours after competition ended, setting Chen up to be the youngest U.S. man to compete at Worlds since 1965.

Chen fell on a triple Axel in the free skate, two days after he became the first man to land two quads in a short program at the U.S. Championships.

On Sunday, Chen landed two quadruple Salchows and two quadruple toe loops. He was in fourth place after Friday’s short program.

“I had initially planned to only do three [quads], but I felt fine,” Chen said, adding that he felt he had nothing to lose. “Throughout the season, I’ve only been putting myself up as a junior skater. I’m glad to show what I’m capable of as a senior skater.”

Later Sunday, Chen aggravated a hip injury during an exhibition performance and was taken to a local hospital, according to U.S. Figure Skating.

Rippon has questioned his place in the sport during an up-and-down last few years. He won the 2008 and 2009 World junior titles and was second at the 2012 U.S. Championships but fell to eighth at the 2014 U.S. Championships, missing the Olympic team.

He earned his second U.S. Championships silver medal last year. On Friday, Rippon said of Chen, “He’s the future, but right now I think we want to be the present.”

“I’m like a witch, and you can’t kill me,” Rippon said after winning on NBC.

Aaron was third at the 2014 U.S. Championships, missing the two-man Olympic team, and fourth at the 2015 U.S. Championships, missing the three-man World Championships team.

This season, Aaron won Skate America in October, becoming the first U.S. man to take a Grand Prix title since 2011.

In St. Paul, Aaron landed one quad in his short program and two in his free skate, staying on his feet in both programs.

Aaron came into the U.S. Championships as a clear favorite due in part to the absences of both Sochi Olympians (Jason Brown, back strain, and Jeremy Abbott, sitting out this season) and 2015 U.S. bronze medalist Joshua Farris (concussion).

The last time the U.S. Championships men’s event included zero Olympians was 1968.

NBC Sports’ U.S. Championships All-Access Page

Jason Brown left off World Championships team

Jason Brown
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Jason Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion and fourth-place finisher at the 2015 World Championships, was left off U.S. Figure Skating’s three-man team for this spring’s World Championships in Boston.

In favor of Nathan Chen, a 16-year-old who is set to become the youngest U.S. man to compete at Worlds since 1965.

On Sunday, Chen became the first man to land four quads in a free skate at the U.S. Championships in St. Paul, Minn. But Chen, who landed six quads total over two programs, finished third behind Adam Rippon (who landed zero quads) and Max Aaron (who landed three).

Brown last competed in October and pulled out of a November event and the U.S. Championships with a back strain. Brown petitioned for a place on the Worlds team, with his coach saying he will return to skating this week, according to Icenetwork.com.

The U.S. men’s team for Worlds includes Rippon (fourth Worlds appearance), Aaron (third Worlds) and Chen, the reigning Junior Grand Prix Final champion.

Chen, the 2014 World junior bronze medalist, is also eligible for Junior Worlds this year.

NBC Sports’ U.S. Championships All-Access Page

Max Aaron leads U.S. Championships after short program

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Max Aaron just missed the 2014 Olympic and 2015 World Championships teams. He’s making sure he won’t be left out this season.

Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, skated a clean short program, with a quadruple jump, to lead the U.S. Championships going into Sunday’s free skate (NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra, 4-6 p.m. ET).

“Tonight was a good fight,” Aaron said (more from Aaron in an NBC interview here). “Nothing really went smooth.”

Aaron totaled 91.83 points in St. Paul, Minn., on Friday and leads past U.S. silver medalists Ross Miner by .93 and Adam Rippon by 3.82. Full results are here.

Aaron was third at the 2014 U.S. Championships, missing the two-man Olympic team, and fourth at the 2015 U.S. Championships, missing the three-man World Championships team.

This season, Aaron won Skate America in October, becoming the first U.S. man to take a Grand Prix title since 2011.

He came into the U.S. Championships as a clear favorite due in part to the absences of both Sochi Olympians (Jason Brown, back strain, and Jeremy Abbott, sitting out this season) and 2015 U.S. bronze medalist Joshua Farris (concussion).

The last time the U.S. Championships men’s event included zero Olympians was 1968.

Miner, who made three straight U.S. podiums from 2011-13, had his best-ever short program, though he lacked Aaron’s quad.

Rippon, a two-time U.S. silver medalist seeking his first title, stepped out of the landing of his opening triple-triple jump combination. He has a quadruple Lutz in his arsenal but did not attempt a four-revolution jump.

“I kind of doubted myself for a second heading into my first combination,” Rippon said (more from Rippon in an NBC interview here). “After that, I told myself that I just needed to let it go, do all the elements as well as I could, fight through them, or [coach] Rafael [Arutyunyan] would kill me. And I wanted to live.”

Nathan Chen, 16, performed two quadruple jumps in his short program and placed fourth with 86.33 points.

“I’m pretty happy with how I did,” Chen, who is trying to become the youngest U.S. man to finish in the top three at Nationals since 1973, told media in St. Paul. “This was the first time I’ve ever tried two quads in a short program. Honestly, it was a big risk for me, but I thought this would be the best time to do it. I’m trying to set myself up as a senior skater, and I think this is a good step.”

The Junior Grand Prix Final champion turned out of the landing on his first quad and put a hand on the ice landing his triple Axel.

“He’s the future, but right now I think we want to be the present,” said Rippon, who trains with Chen.

Men are competing for three spots on the team for the World Championships in Boston in two months.

The U.S. champion earns an automatic Worlds berth, while a committee will choose the other two after the free skate, taking into account recent results in top national and international competitions.

Complicating the decision is the 2015 U.S. champion Brown’s back strain that’s kept him out of competition since the end of October. Brown has petitioned for a place on the Worlds team.

The U.S. Championships continue Saturday with the pairs, ice dance and women’s long programs on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra.

MORE: Patrick Chan considered quitting after Grand Prix Final