By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. In this edition, we take a look at a great start to 2022 for figure skater Nathan Chen, one of the best hockey players in the Northwest, Tiger Woods returning to the golf course, and the best move of 2021.
Nathan Chen wins 6th straight US figure skating championship
Nathan Chen had landed some of the most difficult jumps in figure skating, soaring through the air with a dizzying array of quads and flawlessly stringing together incredible combinations that left the crowd wanting more.
Figures that he would faceplant on a simple step sequence. It didn’t matter, though. Nor did a mistake on one of his four quadruple jumps.
Chen was that much better than everyone else at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Jan. 9, winning the free skate with 212.63 points and scoring 328.01 in all—good for his sixth consecutive title.
Chen’s six titles are the most by a men’s skater since Todd Eldredge won his sixth in 2002, and he is the first to win six in a row since two-time Olympic champion Dick Button won seven straight in the 1940s and 1950s.
It has been a remarkable four-year run for the 22-year-old Chen since a shockingly poor short program at the Pyeongchang Games cost him a shot at an Olympic medal. Chen won 14 consecutive events, from national titles to world championships and everything in between, before losing to Vincent Zhou at Skate America in October.
That turned out to be a blip. Chen won Skate Canada the very next week.
He underscored his readiness for Beijing when he broke his own national record in the short program, a throwback to his “La Boheme” program from a couple years ago that featured a pair of soaring quads and scored 115.39 points.
Then Chen put his readiness in all CAPS with his performance in the free skate.
Wearing a costume adorned with a supernova, Chen blasted off into another level to music from “Rocketman” with a score that beat his own Grand Prix best this season of 307.18 points. And he topped the 322.36 points his biggest rival in Beijing, two-time Olympic champ Yuzuru Hanyu, scored in winning the Japanese national title last month.
Hockey rising stars
The Seattle Kraken’s inaugural season at Climate Pledge Arena has many locals watching the NHL more this year. But the state of hockey in the northwest has been thriving with minor league hockey. One of the latest prospects that could be in a Kraken uniform in the coming years is Marcus Nguyen. The Calgary, Alberta native currently plays for the Portland Winterhawks. The 5’10, 170-pound Nguyen is a goal scorer and was drafted by the Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League Draft. According to the franchise, he is a player who “possesses exceptional speed and quickness, as well as the ability to finish his chances (shots on goal).”
At only 17, Nguyen should be a player to watch for in the next couple years as he plays in the Western Hockey League.
Nguyen looks to follow in the footsteps of fellow Canadian Nick Suzuki as the 22-year-old Montreal Canadien is having a great year in his third pro year with the NHL team and is a future superstar.
Suzuki went under many hospital procedures as a baby due to ear and lung issues. But he overcame them to lead a normal childhood. You might consider him a late bloomer.
Woods plays with son in return to golf
Tiger Woods returned to the golf course to play in a tournament with his 12-year-old son, Charlie.
The PNC Pro-Am Championship in Orlando, Florida had a unique format which put together major winners with their parent or child. In this case, Woods and his son teamed up for the event.
It was the first tournament that Woods played in since he was in a one-car accident this past February that shattered his lower right leg. So severe was the injury that there was concern that the leg may have to be amputated.
During the tournament, Woods and his son wore the same hat, golf shirt, and slacks—matching head-to-toe. Woods looked relaxed and the younger Woods had many of the mannerisms of his father on the course—from his swing and follow through to the way he approaches a golf ball.
There is no timeline for when Woods will return to competitive golf. Prior to the tournament with his son, Woods indicated his return remains “a long way off.”
2021’s best move, Kim Ng is GM
Before we leave 2021 altogether, one of the best moves of the year was the Miami Marlins picking Kim Ng to be its General Manager. Ng was hired by former New York Yankee and current chief executive and part owner, Derek Jeter. Previously, Ng had been the Yankees’ assistant GM from 1998 to 2001 and has held other front office positions in Major League Baseball (MLB) over her 30-year career. She had come close to becoming a general manager with other teams, including the Seattle Mariners. But each interview led to nowhere.
This past year, Ng finally was given the job of heading the Marlins’ team operations. Not only was she the first Asian American to be a general manager of a MLB team, she was the first woman to fill the position. In fact, she is the first woman to be put in the position of general manager in MLB, NBA, NFL or NHL.
Ng said that when she got the job, “a 10,000-pound weight lifted off of [one] shoulder—and then transferred to [the other] shoulder.” This inferred that after waiting for the job, she would be under a microscope as she had to put together a team that had a surprising 2020 but it was unknown whether they could maintain the momentum. Not only did she have to retool the team, she had to deal with budgetary constraints of putting together a competitive roster in the midst of a global pandemic.
In her first year, the Marlins finished 67-95—good enough for second-to-last in its division and missing the playoffs after a surprising 2020, which saw the team make the playoffs. As the second year begins (assuming there is no baseball strike), Ng will look to improve on the roster and make another run for the playoffs.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.