Nathan Chen’s win streak ends at 14, Vincent Zhou victorious at Skate America

ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - Skate America
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LAS VEGAS — An American won the men’s event at Skate America on Saturday night, but it wasn’t the one who was expected.

Nathan Chen‘s epic win streak that lasted more than three seasons ended, while Vincent Zhou scored his first major senior win and what could symbolize a shift in his figure skating career.

Zhou won the 2017 junior world title but had yet to return to the top step of the podium at such an important competition.

Finally putting together two consistent skates when it mattered, the 20-year-old won with 295.56 points — a personal best score among individual competitions that also closes in on his goal of a 300-point total — and proved to himself and others that he can beat the world’s greatest.

“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. I didn’t really expect this result, but what I did expect of myself was to be as well prepared and well trained as I possibly could, and I think focusing on that every single day at home led to making the seemingly impossible seem possible,” Zhou told reporters. “I hope that’s a recurring theme this season and I look forward to continuing to work hard to make even better things happen.”

The 22-year-old Chen had two of his worst performances of this Olympic quad and took bronze — his lowest placement in six years on the Grand Prix circuit — with a 269.37 total.

Japan’s Shoma Uno was second at the Orleans Arena with 270.68 points, marking the 2018 Olympic silver medalist’s first Grand Prix medal in three years.

“It’s not about what I did well here, it’s more about revisiting the mistakes in this competition, the things I lacked,” Uno said. “I’ll just work hard and train for NHK Trophy in Japan (Nov. 12-14).”

American Jimmy Ma, 26, the surprise third-place finisher in the short, finished fifth for his best Grand Prix result by five placements.

Chen’s win streak, which included three world titles and stretched from the 2018 World Championships to the 2021 World Championships, ends at 14.

His run of Skate America victories ends at four, tying him with Todd Eldredge, Michelle Kwan and Meryl Davis and Charlie White among all disciplines.

“It was inevitably going to end, right, at some point in time. I’m really proud of these guys up here. If anyone gets to break my streak, I’m glad it’s him,” Chen said, nodding to Zhou. “All that being said, it’s something that happened. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in the past, but at this point in time the only thing I can do is move forward. That’s where my mind’s at.”

Before this week, the last time Chen did not win a competition he entered was the 2018 Winter Olympics, where he had a disastrous short program that put him in 17th. Chen then won the free skate to land in fifth overall.

After coming in fourth in Friday’s short program, his lowest placement in a short since that PyeongChang program, he was unable to mount a successful comeback this time.

“I definitely think there needs to be more reflection,” Chen said of his mistakes this week. “I don’t have a perfect answer right away. That’s definitely something that will be a priority for me.”

Zhou, meanwhile, has made a successful comeback after ending last season with a dismal 25th-place finish at worlds that meant he wouldn’t advance to the free skate and an American would have to compete at this season’s Nebelhorn Trophy to confirm the U.S. men’s three Olympic spots.

That American ended up being Zhou, and he won the event, along with Cranberry Cup International, in September.

“I think I have definitely been building consistently this season, my results have been pretty consistent, I have been putting out relatively strong performances for me this whole season so far and building up to this competition,” Zhou said on the NBCSN broadcast.

“It’s been pretty amazing, there’s been some ups and downs and we’ve taken those in stride and just kept pushing forward one step at a time every day. I’m really thankful to be here.”

In the press conference that followed, Zhou thanked his coaching team, the spectators, U.S. Figure Skating, event organizers and his “amazing competitors for pushing me to be an amazing competitor as well.”

Zhou’s revival of his free skate to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” from the 2018-2019 season, may have proved fortuitous.

Zhou was fourth and fifth at his Grand Prix assignments that season, then second at U.S. Championships, earned bronze at Four Continents and finally at worlds.

He said he also attributes his success to the level-headed approach that has produced the most consistent and productive training of his career.

“I think starting from around January last year, I started training with the mindset of having absolutely nothing to lose and not relegating myself to third place or second place anymore,” Zhou explained. “Coming into this season, I’m just training all out, trying to perfect every aspect of my skating, and with an earlier start and such consistent training so far, I think there definitely is potential to break out a little this season.

“Obviously I don’t expect to win everything — I’m not Nathan Chen — but it’s an honor to be competing in such a deep men’s field. It’s also an honor at this competition to win the gold medal.”

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South Korea’s first gold medalist of 2018 PyeongChang Olympics to compete for China

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Lim Hyo-Jun, a short track speed skater who won South Korea’s first gold medal of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, has been cleared to skate for China and was reportedly named to the national team Monday.

Lim, who won the 1500m on the first day of medal competition at the PyeongChang Games, began the process of switching to China after a June 2019 incident where he pulled down a teammate’s trousers, leaving him standing, exposed, in front of female teammates.

Lim, the 2019 World overall champion, was banned from the team for a year and later found guilty of sexual harassment before the verdict was overturned on appeal.

It was reported in March 2021 that Lim was in the process of trying to gain Chinese nationality to compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics, but Lim was not cleared to switch by the International Skating Union until this July. His Chinese name is Lin Xiaojun.

Another star South Korean skater, triple 2006 Olympic gold medalist Ahn Hyun-Soo, switched to Russia after not making the 2010 Olympic team. He then won three golds for the host nation as Viktor Ahn at the 2014 Sochi Games.

China’s national team for the upcoming season reportedly does not include veterans Wu Dajing, the nation’s lone gold medalist across all sports at the 2018 Olympics, and Fan Kexin, a three-time Olympic medalist.

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Brigid Kosgei, world record holder, to miss London Marathon

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World record holder Brigid Kosgei withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon due to a right hamstring injury that has bothered her for the last month.

“My training has been up and down and not the way I would like to prepare to be in top condition,” was posted on Kosgei’s social media. “We’ve decided it’s best I withdraw from this year’s race and get further treatment on my injuries in order to enter 2023 stronger than ever.”

Kosgei, a 28-year-old Kenyan mother of twins, shattered the world record by 81 seconds at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. She clocked 2:14:04 to smash Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s record from 2003.

Since, Kosgei won the 2020 London Marathon, took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, placed fourth at the 2021 London Marathon and won this past March’s Tokyo Marathon in what was then the third-fastest time in history (2:16:02).

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa moved into the top three by winning the Berlin Marathon last Sunday in 2:15:37.

The London Marathon women’s field includes Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei, a winner in New York City (2019) and London (2021), and Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who was the Ethiopian record holder until Assefa won in Berlin.

The men’s field is headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest male marathoner in history, and Brit Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic champion on the track.

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