U.S. Figure Skating National Championships highlight promise for future
The U.S. Figure Skating National Championships was held this past week in Kansas City, Mo. In the senior events, young talent stole the show for the individual skaters putting U.S. skating back on the map and giving them a promising look into the future.
Nathan Chen, 17, won his first national title dominating both the short program and the free skate. He shattered the previous record for the overall score with 318.47 points. Chen also was the first to land five quadruple jumps in competition. Chen, coming off of a 2016 season which ended with a major hip injury, made vast improvements to his component score and artistry, making him one to watch on the international circuit and a hope for the U.S. men to dominate at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
For the ladies, Karen Chen, 17 and no relation to Nathan, won her first national title, beating veteran Ashley Wagner.
She skated a beautiful short program, scoring the highest score given for a short program in history, that put her in the lead by one point. However, many thought that Chen would crack under pressure due to her inexperience on the senior stage, but Chen was quietly confident stating that “it’s surely a possibility” for her to win it all.
On Saturday night, she captured the ice and won over the long program taking a commanding lead and finishing first overall. Wagner, who finished second, was enthusiastic for the future of U.S. women’s skating and the world team. Wagner stated “I think to have a fresh crop of young girls, someone who will take over once the veterans retire, I think that is something that is so exciting for US figure skating and that’s something that we really haven’t had a glimpse of for the past couple of years.”
Following the championships, the U.S. Figure Skating committee chose who would fill the spots to represent the United States on the World team. The men and pairs had two spots, while the women and dance had three spots to fill. The spots are filled based on the committee’s choices and not necessarily the results of the national championships.
Nathan Chen, along with fan favorite and 2016 US National Champion, Jason Brown, who finished third at this year’s championships, were chosen for the two spots on the United States’ men’s world championship team. Brown who was third going into the free skate, had a powerful performance skating on a stress fracture on his right fibula.
Karen Chen, Wagner and third place finisher Mariah Bell, were chosen to represent the women. Gracie Gold, 2016 national champion, was left off of the team, after finishing sixth. Gold, who is one of the best technical skaters out there, has struggled this year.
The U.S. World Championships will be held in Helsinki, Finland on March 29 through April 2.