Jimmy Ma

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U.S. Championships men’s preview: Nathan Chen’s imminent three-peat

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Nathan Chen can capture his third national title at the U.S. Championships this weekend in Detroit. His technical prowess leaves him largely unchallenged in the field, though familiar faces to the U.S. podium will look to take home medals of their own. PyeongChang Olympian Vincent Zhou and Sochi Olympian Jason Brown are the most likely candidates.

Zhou’s focus this season has been on integrating the artistic side of his skating with his own technical ability. Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, moved to Toronto to train this season under Brian Orser.

The men’s short program is Saturday and the free skate is Sunday. Check out the full schedule and live streaming information here.

Nathan Chen three-peat possible

The last man to win three straight U.S. national titles was Johnny Weir, who won from 2004 to 2006. Chen attempts to match that feat in Detroit, and the reigning world champion should be relatively unchallenged on the ice. Chen, the Grand Prix Final winner and Yale freshman, has largely been training alone this season. California-based coach Rafael Arutunian has been “telecoaching” him from across the country while Chen has been in at school in New Haven, Connecticut.

MORE: Nathan Chen’s ambitious spring semester kicks off with U.S. Championships

Vincent Zhou focused on growth

Zhou missed the podium at both of his Grand Prix assignments, mostly due to strict under-rotation calls this season. He told reporters ahead of nationals that he’s been working to make the rotation on his jumps clearer. “That’s one of the things I hope people will see in Detroit because I have been training better in that aspect,” he said.

MORE: 3 questions with Vincent Zhou

Jason Brown

Brown left the only coach he’s ever had at the end of last season, when he missed the 2018 Olympics. Now in Toronto with Orser and Tracy Wilson, he’s training alongside double Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. Brown still doesn’t have a quad, but his high artistic marks keep him in the conversation. His long-term goals circle around the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

MORE: 3 questions with Jason Brown

Others to watch

Alex Krasnozhon was last year’s favorite to win the world junior championship, but an injury on a quad loop attempt forced him to withdraw in the middle of his free skate. He struggled with getting training back on track for this season, but is still a dark horse for the podium if he successfully hits his technically difficult programs.

Jimmy Ma’s viral “Turn Down for What” program from last year’s nationals will be followed up with another one to watch – his short program is set to “Mi Gente.”

Camden Pulkinen makes his senior national debut. He trains alongside Zhou in Colorado Springs and has made the Junior Grand Prix Final the past two seasons.

Veterans Tim Dolensky and Alex Johnson make their sixth and ninth national championships appearance, respectively. Both typically place inside the top 10 thanks to their clean, artistic programs.

MORE: Bradie Tennell and Mariah Bell challenged in ladies’ field by 13-year-old

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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Figure skater Jimmy Ma glad fans enjoyed ‘Turn Down for What’ (video)

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Jimmy Ma was a concert pianist who performed at Carnegie Hall (via his Icenetwork.com bio), but now he’s also the figure skater who performed to “Turn Down for What” at the U.S. Championships.

Ma’s program including the 2013 DJ Snake and Lil Jon hit — which went viral.

“The idea was to just be different, have fun with it,” Ma, a 22-year-old from Queens, N.Y., who has studied finance at Fordham University, told Icenetwork. “I don’t really care what other people think, but I wanted to have fun on the ice. I wanted to bring my personality out on the ice. It was just, like whatever, but I’m really happy people liked it.”

Ma placed 11th in the short program and has no real chance at making the PyeongChang Olympic team of three men.

But he lit up the crowd, unzipping his jacket mid-skate and adding a Michael Jordan tongue wag.

How did he choose “Turn Down for What?” USA Today has that story:

In May, Ma sat down with his choreographer Nikolai Morozov over a beer and barbeque and ran through a bunch of different tracks. After trying several out on the ice, they settled on Turn Down For What. The theme was complete with a badass persona, as Ma first thumped his chest then urged applause from the audience in the moments after the conclusion.

He will perform Saturday night’s free skate to a very different artist.

“It’s Rachmaninoff,” he said. “Boring. But, like, that’s my style on the ice. I like to show people that I can skate to this, but also I can skate to this. It’s two different ends of the spectrum that I like to show people because my personality is not poetic whatsoever.”

Ma performed to Eminem music last year (video here). What does he have in store for next season?

“Next year, that’s a long story,” said Ma, who listed “card magic” as a hobby in his International Skating Union bio. “There’s no story to that. I have no idea. I have not thought that far ahead yet.

“Raise the bar.”

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