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Reigning World champion Nathan Chen easily captured the men’s title, winning the gold medal by more than 41 points over silver medalist Michal Březina of the Czech Republic. In a year of transition for the American champion, Chen seemed to have a handle on balancing an Ivy League education and competing at an elite level.
“There definitely have been moments of ups and downs both in skating and in school,” he said. “I think just even handling school alone is a lot of work. Every night there are loads and loads of homework that you have to finish for the next day, which means that it kind of takes away from sleep. And then I come in to training the next day and think ‘I can’t do anything.’
“Those are definitely the times when I have to rearrange my time to find the time to skate, find the time to study, and find the time to sleep. It’s a balance, and I am still learning—there will definitely be harder times ahead, but there will also be times when it will be fun and great so that I can enjoy my college experience.”
Skating to the brooding “Land of All” by Woodkid, Chen connected with the music in a way that added a much-needed dimension to his skating. The three quadruple jumps — a Lutz and two toe loops helped seal the victory, but Chen really was in a class all of his own.
“I’m happy with today’s skate. Definitely a lot of improvement from the last competition, and that’s definitely my goal for this season — to just keep on improving from competition to competition,” Chen said at the post-event press conference. “The program, in terms of quads, was definitely watered down, but I think that in terms of where I am in the season right now, its perfect. I’m looking to add more in, but trying to improve upon everything else.”
Chen scored 189.99 points in the free skate and 280.57 overall, taking the top spot on the season’s best list in both categories.
Březina was the best of the rest, earning 157.42 points in the free and 239.51 points overall to snag his first Grand Prix medal in four years. “I’m pretty sure that most of this credit goes to Rafael (Arutyunyan, his coach). Without his pushing me to get to a level that I never actually thought I had … I probably wouldn’t be here,” Březina acknowledged. “The work that I did with him the last two years really started showing at the end of last season at Europeans, Olympics and Worlds.”
“I think that it’s pretty great to be back on the podium. It’s pretty funny that I am 28 and this is my first silver medal on the Grand Prix, so yay!”
Březina skated a powerful performance to a medley from “I’m a Man” (The Spencer Davis Group) and “Thunderstruck” (AC/DC), opening with a quad Salchow-double toe loop combination. In all, the silver medalist landed four clean triple jumps in addition to the quad combination to earn his spot on the podium. The only glaring error was a rough landing on a triple Axel attempt.
“I think it was a pretty good step up from my last competition and even from last season. It was a better start than my first Grand Prix last season,” said Brezina. “There are still some things that need some work, but for the first Grand Prix I think it’s pretty good. I am happy with the result. I wish the skate would have been a little better, but it’s the beginning of the season and there is still time to build.”
For the second year in a row, Russia’s Sergei Voronov bagged the bronze medal at Skate America, moving up from fourth after the short program. The 31 year-old had two major errors in his free skate — a fall on a triple Axel attempt and a downgraded quad loop, but he was able to connect on his opening quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination and four other triples.
“I can’t say that I am satisfied because there were mistakes in the free program,” Voronov said. “In comparing it to previous domestic competitions, this was a step up for me but there is still a lot of improvement to go.”
Voronov’s program to “Way Down We Go” by Kaleo was choreographed in part by 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten, who was murdered over the summer in his native Kazakhstan.
“When I learned about the tragedy, it was hard for me to find words,” Voronov reflected. “I thought, this is the only program and choreography that Denis did, and for me that means I have a huge responsibility to present this program in the best possible way. I am not showing just my work, but I am showing the work of Denis. When I am skating the program, I am hoping that he is somehow watching from above.”
Voronov earned 148.26 points in the free skate and 226.44 overall.
Italy’s Matteo Rizzo finished in fourth place in his Grand Prix debut. Vincent Zhou of the U.S. was fifth ahead of Malaysia’s Julian Zhi Jie Yee who struggled in the long program and fell from third place after the short program to seventh place overall.