Nathan Chen captured his fourth consecutive title at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Sunday afternoon with a record-breaking score. He is the first man — and one of just a handful in U.S. history — to earn a consecutive quad of titles in 32 years. He joins an elite group that includes Olympic champions: Dick Button, Hayes Jenkins, David Jenkins, Scott Hamilton and Brian Boitano, who claimed his fourth and final national title in 1988.
“It’s amazing to me. I never really went into U.S. Championships trying to match what they’ve done — they’re legends; they’re the greats. They are people that are untouchable,” said Chen. “To be able to trail after them and sort of see the future, or in my case the past, just generally the figure skating future is inspirational. To have something to look forward to and reach for is really inspirational and I am really honored to be in this position.”
Chen arrived in Greensboro the claiming to be the least prepared he has ever been for the U.S. Championships. Though he may not have performed the choreography in his “Rocketman” soundtrack routine to its fullest potential, Chen was still head and shoulders above the rest of the field in terms of technical content.
Within the first minute of the long program, he had already checked off three quad jumps — a flip in combination, a Salchow, and a toe loop in sequence. He added a second quad toe loop to the second half of his program and completed six triple jumps in all. His performance earned a record score of 330.17 points.
“There have been maybe one or two other instances where I have been as unprepared for a nationals, but specifically with this time, I had to make good use of the week that I had,” he Chen explained. “I’ve had a lot of experience over the past few years competing in certain situations, and I think having that experience sort of helped me here in terms of how to keep myself in a positive, confident mindset. And on top of that, trying to enjoy the experience as much as I can.
“I was a little shaky here and there, but overall I was able to get through the program. I was pretty worried about stamina coming in here, so I’m glad I was able to get through. The audience definitely helped me with that and I’m really happy to be where I am.”
Jason Brown, winner of the title in this arena five years ago, finished in second place with a stirring performance to music from the “Schindler’s List” soundtrack. Brown was simply breath-taking in his routine, tackling a piece of music that he admitted he held off using until he was mature enough to give it the proper sensitivity.
A master of program components, each movement had intent and told a story; every position was hit with precision and perfection. But there was also a technical brilliance to match the artistry — eight triple jumps in total, with the lone error a downgraded quad toe loop in an otherwise sublime program that Brown attempted at the beginning of the program.
“I think for me it took until this year, until I was 25 years old to even have the feeling that I could take on ‘Schindler’s List’ because I wanted to do it justice and I know how significant the story is and to history in general,” Brown explained. “For me, trying to be mature enough and feeling that my skating was strong enough to portray what I wanted to portray in the piece took until now — I think that kind of speaks volumes on how much this piece means to me.
“I really attribute (the performance) to the training that I’ve been putting in and all the setbacks that I’ve gone through with my coaches to just make me so much stronger. To be able to come back to Greensboro five years later and put out two standing ovation worthy programs … I’m so thrilled.”
Brown captured the silver medal with a combined score of 294.88 points, a personal best.
Reigning World junior champion Tomoki Hiwatashi moved up from fifth place after the short program to snag the final spot on the podium. The bronze medalist skated a playful program to Stravinsky’s “Petrushka,” landing two quad toe loops — one in combination with a triple toe loop — to start the routine. In total, Hiwatashi landed six triple jumps, and closed out the competition with a career best 278.08 points in total.
“This year I think I practiced really hard. I really wanted to protect my placement (at the U.S. Championships) or even get better at it this year than last year,” he said. “So I really think I was working the hardest I can and the hardest in the rink. I’m really happy with what I did.”
Vincent Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, made a triumphant return to competition after skipping the Grand Prix season to focus on his studies at Brown University. He finished in fourth place, skating far better than expected after returning to training just over a month ago.
Skating to music from the soundtrack “Cloud Atlas,” Zhou opened with arguably the best quad Salchow he has ever executed in competition. Though he lacked speed and attack, he was able to muster a total of eight triple jumps. To mark his accomplishment, Zhou pumped his fists in celebration at the end of his program. He finished with 275.23 points.
“That was a huge personal victory for me,” Zhou said. “Obviously, it was about as good as I could have possibly done at this moment. I have more in my tank for the future, but for me just overcoming everything that I have been through in the second half of last year, it’s a huge, huge personal victory. It’s really special to be able to go out there and do that.”
Third after the short program, Andrew Torgashev slipped to fifth place after falling on a quad toe loop and again on a triple Axel. He finished with 260.64 points. Aleksei Krasnozhon placed sixth with 241.32 points.
U.S. Figure Skating named its men’s teams for Four Continents, Worlds and the World Junior Camp, which takes place next week. The squad that will compete at the World Junior Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, in early March will be named at the end of the camp.
World Championships: Jason Brown, Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou
Alternates: Tomoki Hiwatashi, Andrew Torgashev, Camden Pulkinen
2020 Four Continents Championships: Jason Brown, Tomoki Hiwatashi, Camden Pulkinen
Alternate: Alex Krasnozhon
2020 U.S. World Junior Team Camp: Lucas Altieri, Ryan Dunk, Liam Kapeikis, Maxim Naumov, Eric Sjoberg, Andrew Torgashev, Dinh Tran
RELATED CONTENT: 2020 U.S. CHAMPIONSHIPS