Nathan Chen leads men’s short program, looking at three straight U.S. titles

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DETROIT – In a little less than an hour of elapsed time, in short programs that last a little less than three minutes, three U.S. men gave performances to stand the test of time.

They ran from extraordinary to exhilarating to exquisite.

Never had Nathan Chen, Jason Brown and Vincent Zhou skated a short program in competition better than each did Saturday afternoon in the U.S. Championships at Little Caesars Arena.

Chen’s quadruple jump pyrotechnics were enhanced by a heightened ability to grab an audience when he isn’t jumping. Brown’s quad-less program had a flow and refinement that stretched through the position of his fingers as the music stopped. Zhou looked like an utterly rejuvenated version of the skater who had dealt with a back injury and a crisis of confidence this season.

Chen’s 113.42 points gave him a commanding lead in his quest for a third straight U.S. title. Brown had 100.52, Zhou 100.25. The next finisher, Tomoki Hiwatashi, was 16 points behind Zhou.

The free skate is Sunday afternoon.

Results: Men’s short program

“This season, I can’t count the number of times I have gone through the feeling of I don’t know if I can continue,” Zhou said. “So to push through and overcome my biggest obstacle, which is myself, and to perform like that, I’m very grateful.”

The top three had all positive Grades of Execution, even though Zhou was called for an under-rotation on the quad Lutz that opened his quad-triple combination.

And Brown’s GOEs were exceptional. Of the 63, there were 32 of the maximum plus-5 and 26 of plus-four.

That is the way Brown and his new coaches, Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson, hope he can cut into the mathematical advantage the quad jumpers have.

Brown admitted to feeling a little shaky, which did not show in his skating.

“Sometimes, I will watch it [afterwards] and think, ‘Oh, it looked so much better than I felt,’” Brown said.

Chen, who hit a quad flip and a quad toe-triple toe, got 12.40 more points on his jumping passes than Brown did.

While he has utterly dominated U.S. men’s skating the past three seasons, Chen has made his position more complicated after beginning studies at Yale last fall.

“There were times when I was really struggling with them both, not sure how I was going to handle the two,” he said.

He has not lost all season. And Chen said his first semester grades included some A’s and Bs.

That’s extraordinary stuff.

MORE: Jason Brown planning quad attempt for free skate

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating 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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J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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MORE: World Wrestling Championships TV Schedule

Alexandra Trusova, 15, becomes first woman to land three quadruple jumps

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Alexandra Trusova established herself as the world’s leading female figure skater … in her first senior international competition.

Trusova, the 15-year-old, two-time world junior champion from Russia, became the first woman to land three quadruple jumps in one international competition program, posting the world’s highest free skate and total scores on the early season.

Trusova previously landed three quads in the free skate at the Russian Federation’s test skates in early September.

She opened Saturday’s free skate with a quadruple Lutz, a quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination and another quad toe to run away from Japanese Olympian Kaori Sakamoto by 44.27 points. Video is here.

She won a lower-level event in Slovakia with 238.69 points, which would have beaten Japan’s top skater, Rika Kihira, and Olympic bronze medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva by more than 14 points at an event last week in Canada. However, judging panels can be more or less forgiving from event to event.

Still, Trusova established herself as a force going into next month’s Grand Prix season. She will face Kihira and Medvedeva at Skate Canada the last week of October.

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MORE: 2019 Senior Grand Prix assignments