The Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Nathan Chen stood on the top step of the podium and stifled a smile as U.S. Figure Skating president Samuel Auxier, preparing to drape a gold medal around his neck, bowed down before him.
Indeed, all hail the new king of American skating.
Chen followed a record-setting short program with a near-flawless free skate featuring five quadruple jumps on Jan. 22 to become the youngest men’s U.S. figure skating champion in more than five decades.
The 17-year-old Chen, performing to “The Polovtsian Dances,” became the first skater in the world to land five clean quads in competition. The result was a free skate score of 212.08 — more than the composite of several rivals — and finished with a 318.47 total that put him well clear of the competition.
“That was an amazing performance. I’m really happy with what I did,” said Chen, a native of Salt Lake City. “Component-wise, I kind of faltered a little bit. That stuff happens when you’re pushing these secondary elements to the max. It’s definitely something that I’m looking forward to working on improve for worlds.”
Hard to imagine things getting a whole lot better.
Chen’s aerial showcase began with a quad lutz-triple toe combination and never slowed down, his only bobble coming on a triple flip-triple toe as his sprightly program was coming to an end.
By that point, his coach Rafael Arutunian was already shaking his fists in celebration.
Sixteen-year-old Vincent Zhou missed on his first quad but was clean the rest of the way, even if the youngster lacked some of the polish of his peers. His total of 263.03 earned him the silver medal.
Jason Brown skated a smooth, stylish routine to move into the bronze medal position.
One of the threats to Chen’s new throne was unable to compete in Kansas City.
Reigning champion Adam Rippon was warming up for practice two weeks ago when he landed on his left foot and heard a crunch. X-rays and an MRI exam revealed a sprain and a broken bone, which will keep him off the ice for up to three months and effectively end his season.