GRENOBLE, France – Nathan Chen landed four quadruple jumps in his free skate to win Grand Prix France this past weekend: a Lutz, two toes and a Salchow. Two weeks earlier, he had landed three en route to a third consecutive Skate America victory: a flip, a toe and a Salchow.
As early as 2017, however, at the world championships in Helsinki, Chen had produced a six-quad free skate. He had landed “only” four clean then. But that day, April 1, 2017, he had made the sport’s free skates shift from mainly triple jumps with a few quads to mainly quads with a few triples.
He subsequently delivered six-quad free skates at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and at Worlds in Milan a few weeks later. In both occasions he won the free skate phase, leading him to his first world crown.
Women are starting to get into the quad game, too. Chen is not yet ready to repeat his feat from back then, though.
“With the new rules [voted by the ISU Congress in June 2018], you would need to do all five different quads [all except the Axel] if you wanted to land six quads into one program. This would be very high risk,” he said after Grand Prix France in Grenoble. Under the new rules, only one type of quad can be done twice in a program.
Rafael Arutunian, who coaches Chen from California while his pupil is a sophomore at Yale University, clearly stated that rules were by no means a limit.
“Rules can’t make you stop improving if you want to. The goal everybody has is to improve the sport,” he said.
The two-time Olympic champion, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, delivered similar program content in Kelowna at Skate Canada one week earlier, as he landed four quads as well: a loop, a Salchow, and two toes.
Both Chen and Arutunyan highly praised Hanyu in Grenoble.
“I’m a big fan of Yuzuru Hanyu,” Arutunian said. “I heard about the big score he got at Skate Canada. He is such an iconic skater.”
“He’s Yuzu,” Chen added. “He’s won two Olympic gold medals, and he just put great results and got super-scores right at the start of the season, with high quality quads. He is a role model in figure skating.”
Four quads, incorporating three different kinds, seem to be the current highest standard in men’s skating under the new rules.
“Going for six quads is not worth the risk,” Chen continued. “Four is obviously less than six, but nailing four high-quality quads is more important nowadays.
“Which doesn’t imply that I’m not going for six quads!” he added mischievously.
Chen’s free program for this season nonetheless suggests that it potentially has room for an additional quad. At Skate America, the two-time world champion opened his program with a triple Lutz, triple toe combination. In Grenoble, he placed a triple Lutz, double toe combination right after his opening quad Lutz. Both could potentially turn either into a quad Lutz or into a quad flip combination, depending on which jump he elects to open his program with.
When asked about such a possibility, Chen excluded the idea that it would turn into a quad Lutz, triple toe combination, however: “No, this won’t be a quad-double!” he said with a laugh.
Chen also stated that he was not landing the quad loop at the moment (although some 2017 footage indicates that he did land it). This means that five quad-programs certainly remain within reach for the time being.
“Of course, we’re working on getting six quads again, and also a quad Axel, and may be quintuples one day,” Arutunian said. “What Nathan is doing in practice now is not what you see in competition.”
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