Reigning World champion Nathan Chen began his campaign for a third consecutive U.S. title in impressive fashion, earning 113.42 points for his “Caravan” short program. The 19 year-old opened his routine with a triple Axel, and connected on two quad jumps for the first time this season — a flip and a toe loop — the latter in combination with a triple toe loop.
“I’m pretty happy. I hit the jumps that I wanted to go for, and changed up the Lutz for a flip. The Lutz was a little bit shakier than the flip, so I thought that was a good move,” Chen said.
Finishing in second place was 2015 champion Jason Brown (100.52 points), who is looking to regain his footing at these Championships after finishing sixth last season. “I was a lot more nervous than I thought I was going to be. I don′t know why. I’m extremely prepared and ready, so maybe it was just being back at nationals,” said Brown who has yet to attempt a quad jump this season.
Vincent Zhou, the 2018 silver medalist, is in a virtual tie with Brown, earning 100.25 points for his “Exogenesis” short program. Despite struggling with under-rotations all season, Zhou’s triple Axel and quad Salchow were both judged fully rotated. However, his quad Lutz received a downgrade. “If I could pick one jump to improve, I actually would pick the Salchow. However, I felt like my quality has definitely improved since the previous competitions this season,” Zhou said. “I spent the time before nationals very well, and I am working extremely hard on the quality.”
Tomoki Hiwatashi, 18, who is making his debut in the senior ranks, finished fourth with 84.05 points, more than 16 points off the podium. Alexei Krasnozhon, the 2017 junior champion, is in fifth with 82.53 points.