By Liz Leamy
(25 November 2017) On the opening day of Skate America, Americans Nathan Chen, the 2017 U.S. titlist, and Adam Rippon, the 2016 U.S. titlist, pulled off a resounding first and second place finish in the Men’s Short Program at the 2017 Bridgestone Skate America competition, held at the Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, New York. These two talented skaters, in signature fashion, stepped up to the plate and delivered the goods, delivering strong performances, and showing that Chen remains on track to be a force to reckon with at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Nathan Chen, skating to Benjamin Clementine’s "Nemesis," a program that seems to be perfectly suited to match his personality and style, reeled off two big quads, a flip and Lutz (the latter done in combination with a triple toe), with resolution and strength, as well as a triple Axel with a bit of trouble on the landing edge, and some excellent spins defined by clean lines and terrific velocity.
Chen’s performance, for which he earned a rousing standing ovation from the crowd of 2,800-plus spectators, earned him a season’s best score of 104.12.
“I’m very happy with the overall performance,” said Chen, 18, a Salt Lake City native who trains in Lake Forest, California with Rafael Arutunian. “It’s a new program with a lot of new stuff on the table this year. There [are] a lot of points that I could have gotten last year and I’m making sure I take care of them this year.”
At the same time, Chen said he would like to continue to move forward with his skating in order to further increase his score.
“The score is still not that close to some of the top men currently, but that’s something that I know is attainable and it’s something I’m going to work toward,” said Chen.
Chen was scored highest in both technical and component points, with an average component score of 8.91, and left the pack back in his dust, with a lead of over 15 points.
Adam Rippon, the Scranton, Pennsylvania native, meanwhile, scored second, earning 89.04 points, a season’s best, for his arresting program to "Let Me Think About It," a riveting techno piece that held the attention of the crowd from start to finish.
Rippon, who, like Chen, trains in Lake Forest, California with Arutunian, along with Vera Arutunian and Nadia Kanaeva, was in top form and executed a huge triple flip-triple toe, triple Lutz and triple Axel along with artful, textbook-like spins and terrific footwork and connecting steps.
Throughout his entire performance, Rippon showed himself to be a seasoned world-class performer who knew how to skate under pressure and draw in the crowd.
“I love the performance and adrenaline [aspect] of competing and it’s always fun to be at Skate America and skate in front of a home crowd,” said Rippon. “I felt really strong and confident and just wanted to get as many points as I could.”
Rippon was not far behind Chen in components with an average score of 8.80.
Sergei Voronov, the stellar Russian contender, was third with 87.51 points. Skating to "Adios Nonino" by Astor Piazzolla, Voronov knocked out a fantastic quad toe-triple toe, triple Axel, terrific spins and fast footwork. He did, however, run into slight trouble on the triple Lutz.
“Overall, I am pleased with my performance and am now focused on tomorrow,” said Voronov.
Voronov said he loved being in Lake Placid, host locale of the event. “It’s my first time here and it’s just a fantastic place,” he said.
Certainly, Voronov seemed to echo the sentiments of so many at this competition, including the spectators, media members, athletes, coaches, officials, workers and volunteers, who seem excited about being part of this world-class event that is being held in such a storied Olympic village like Lake Placid.
Boyang Jin (CHN), who was second at Cup of China, and was expected to be in the mix for a medal here, and a spot in the Grand Prix Final, landed quad toe loop and a triple Lutz - triple toe loop combination, but popped his attempt at triple Axel. His leveled elements all hit level four, except for the step sequence at level 2. With component scores that averaged 8.14 he earned 77.97 points and currently sits in sixth place.
The third U.S. man here, Ross Minor, earned 71.59 points and currently sits in eighth place. Minor landed triple Lutz and triple flip - triple toe loop, but like Jin, popped the triple Axel.