Nathan Chen hasn’t been in the position in nearly two years — trailing at a Grand Prix event.
The world champion fell on an under-rotated quadruple flip in the Internationaux de France short program on Friday, putting him 9.47 points behind surprise leader Jason Brown going into Saturday’s free skate in Grenoble.
Brown, a Sochi Olympian who missed the U.S. team for PyeongChang, skated a clean, quad-less program and totaled 96.41.
Chen’s effort, landing one quad, garnered 86.94 for third place behind Brown and Russian Alexander Samarin. Chen attempted one more quad than he did at Skate America last month, where he tallied 90.58.
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Friday marked Chen’s first fall in top-level competition since his disastrous, 17th-place short program at the PyeongChang Olympics. Since, he topped the Olympic free skate with a record six quads (five clean), won the world title by the largest margin in history and, after enrolling at Yale, won Skate America by the largest margin in history.
While Chen’s fall was surprising, to see Brown atop the standings was downright shocking.
The 2015 U.S. champion began his first season under new coach Brian Orser by missing the podium at a lower-level September event. He then placed 11th of 12 skaters in the short at his Grand Prix debut at Skate Canada last month, ending up sixth overall.
Brown’s score Friday ranks him fourth in the world this season in the short.
“Big step,” Orser told Brown just before his score came up, adding after the score, “You did it. This was you that did it.”
Skaters are competing this week for the last spots in December’s Grand Prix Final, which takes the top six per discipline from the fall Grand Prix Series. Brown must win Grand Prix France and have Chen finish outside the top five for any chance at the Final. Chen makes the final automatically with a top-five finish.
Later Friday, three-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron posted the world’s top short dance score this season — 84.13 — in their international season debut. While Papadakis and Cizeron are ineligible for the Grand Prix Final for missing their previous Grand Prix due to Cizeron’s back injury, fourth-place Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker will qualify for their first Final if the standings hold through Saturday’s free dance.
As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.
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