By Gina Capellazzi, Team FSO website administrator
Photo by Danielle Earl Photography
VANCOUVER, BC — One week after losing his first competition since the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, three-time World champion Nathan Chen has reclaimed his spot on top of the medal stand, winning the men’s event at Skate Canada International, the second event of the 2021-2022 Grand Prix Series.
With a 12-point lead after the short program, Chen chose to reduce his technical elements in his free skate, taking out the quadruple lutz, playing it safe by doing just a triple lutz. Chen had doubled his planned quadruple lutz in his free skate at Skate America last week. In addition to the quadruple salchow, he executed three other quadruple jumps (quadruple flip-triple toe, quadruple toe-euler-triple flip and quadruple toe-double toe). He earned a free skate score of 200.46 and a total score of 307.18.
“Definitely had better outings here than at Skate America, so it was definitely a good step forward,” Chen said following his free skate.
Chen won the event without his coach, Rafael Arutunian, who was unable to be with Chen at the boards during the free skate. Arutunian’s Skate Canada credential was revoked after he accidentally stepped out of the bubble set up for skaters and coaches. Arutunian told NBC Sports that he violated the bubble and ended up in spectator seating due to a lack of signage.
Arutunian was still able to be in the arena for the men’s free skate. Chen said Arutunian called him before he skated his free skate, and the lack of his coach at the boards did not have any impact on his skating.
“He (Arutunian) trains us to be self-sufficient, ” Chen said.
With 26 points (15 for his gold at Skate Canada and 11 for his bronze at Skate America), Chen should have enough to qualify for Grand Prix Final in December.
“I’m excited to go back home, train, and hopefully I’ll be able to have another competition 5 weeks from now,” he said, noting he will watch the remaining Grand Prix events.
After winning Finlandia Trophy in early October, Team USA’s Jason Brown earned his first Grand Prix medal since finishing behind Chen at Skate America in 2019. Brown was assigned to compete at the 2020 Skate Canada International, which was cancelled as a result of the pandemic.
The 26-year-old from Highland Park, Illinois opened his “Schindler’s List” free skate with a quadruple salchow, which was called downgraded. He also fell on his first triple axel, but then regained control of his free skate to complete six triple jumps. He finished with a free skate score of 165.55 and a total score of 259.55 to win the silver medal.
Brown said he was a little disappointed with the free skate.
“The Grand Prix season is an opportunity to learn and grow and to figure out what works, what doesn’t and to use it as a platform moving forward especially as we move toward the Olympics,” Brown said in the press conference following the men’s event.
Brown will next compete at Internationaux de France, Nov. 19-21, 2021.
2021 Russian Junior Champion Evgeni Semenenko, who was in fifth place after the short program, earned the bronze medal in his Grand Prix debut. Semenenko did compete last season at Rostelecom Cup, which was held as a domestic competition because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In his free skate, the 18-year-old from St. Petersburg completed three quadruple jumps – two quadruple toes and a quadruple salchow. He finished second in the free skate with a score of 168.30 and a total score of 256.01 to win the bronze medal. Semenenko will compete in front of his home country at Rostelecom Cup, Nov. 26-28.
Russia’s Makar Ignatov finished just off the podium in fourth place with a total score of 244.17. He will next compete at NHK Trophy, Nov. 12-14.
Canada’s Keegan Messing, who was in third place after the short program, dropped to fifth place (238.34) after a tough free skate, where he fell face first on his triple loop. He also had a late fall on the landing of his triple lutz and popped his second triple axel. He finished 10th in the free skate with a score of 145.06. Messing said he felt a bit shaky in his right leg. He said it happened on his first axel and on his lutz.
“Every time I was stepping on my right leg, I felt very unsteady,” Messing explained. “Not sure if it was just nerves or something else. It is just something to go home and continue pushing so that I can put my best foot forward in France.”
Fellow Canadians Conrad Orzel and Roman Sadovsky finished in 9th (222.75) and 12th (217.73) respectively.
“I wish I could have done more. I felt I was ready to do it,” Sadovsky said. “I guess I wasn’t. I’ll just take this as a good foundation for the next competition coming up (Rostelecom Cup).”
Georgia’s Morisi Kvitelashvili, who was in last place after the short program, earned a 161.27 in the free skate to move up to sixth place overall with a score of 232.87.
Team USA’s Tomoki Hiwatashi finished in 11th place (221.77).
“I was not ready enough for this competition,” Hiwatashi admitted to the media. “I feel like I need to put more effort in consistency.”
Hiwatashi will compete next at NHK Trophy.
For full results, click here.