Nathan Chen found himself in a familiar place Saturday on the top step of the podium.
The podium at Skate America, to be precise.
The American superstar landed five quadruple jumps over two programs in his first competition in nine months, easily out-distancing Vincent Zhou and the rest of the field to win his record-tying fourth straight Skate America. It also kept intact a streak of victories for Chen that dates to his fifth-place finish at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
“I made quite a few big mistakes in that program, things that I shouldn’t have made mistakes on,” said Chen, whose soaring personal standards left him shrugging at his latest performance. “It is what it is. I’ll learn from it and move forward.”
The two-time world champion built a big lead in his short program Friday night before a shaky free skate, where he had to double a planned quad Salchow and missed a triple axel. But it was still enough for Chen to win the free skate with 187.98 points and give him 299.15 total, while Zhou’s two second-place programs gave him 275.10 and the silver medal.
WATCH | Nathan Chen wins Skate America title:
The high-flying Chen, who has taken leave from his studies at Yale to focus on the 2022 Beijing Games, is on a run of titles that includes a victory over two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu. His latest title at Skate America, one of the only Grand Prix events still going on amid the COVID-19 pandemic, matches the record shared by Michelle Kwan, Todd Eldredge and former Olympic champion ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
Bell edges Tennell in women’s event
In the women’s event, Mariah Bell edged 2018 national champion Bradie Tennell to win arguably the biggest title of her career. The 24-year-old fell on a triple lutz to finish her program Saturday, and her score of 136.25 was only the fourth-best of the free skates. But her sterling short program gave her 212.73 points total — just 1.66 points ahead of Tennell, who won the free skate with a solid program that began with a triple axel-triple toe combination.
WATCH | Mariah Bell wins 1st Grand Prix title:
“I try not to look at outcomes, more how I feel,” Bell said. “I’m walking away from this performance a little disappointed, and I look back at nationals and that’s a program I was really proud of. I want to feel really great about what I did.”
Messing earns bronze
Keegan Messing of Canada and 16-year-old American skater Audrey Shin won the bronze medals, while the pairs and ice dance competitions conclude later Saturday night in the mostly empty Orleans Arena.
Despite being the lone Canadian in the field, Messing welcomed the pressure bestowed upon him.
Messing won the bronze medal with a total of 266.42 points following his free program skate. It’s an improvement on his 2019 performance where he finished fourth, just outside the podium.
WATCH | Keegan Messing of Canada claims bronze medal:
“I am absolutely stoked to come here, put those performances out there and leave with a medal,” Messing said. “I’m on top of the world right now.”
Messing was the only Canadian skater to be given an ISU Grand Prix assignment for the season. A handful of Canadians were slated to participate in the 2020 Skate Canada International in Ottawa later this month, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.
“Just before I took my starting position today, I said to myself `this is for you guys,”‘ Messing said. “It was for my teammates who have to stay home. Today, I had something to fight for. I was skating for my team.
“This is a shared medal. With my team, with all of Canada. The Canadian fans have been so incredible to me. I am so proud to have that flag on my back and to win an international medal for Canada.”
Scimeca Knierim, Frazier win pairs gold
Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Brandon Frazier won the pairs title in their debut at Skate America with a total score of 214.77.
They finished ahead of fellow Americans Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson who totalled 207.40 points, and Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov who finished third with a total score of 189.65.
WATCH | Alexa Scimeca Knierim, Brandon Frazier claim pairs title:
Hubbell, Donohue claim 3rd straight Skate America title
The United States also swept the ice dance event, with Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue claiming the gold medal with a total score of 211.39 for their third consecutive Skate America crown.
Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker won silver with a total score of 202.47, and Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko finished third with a total score of 185.78.
WATCH | Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue with ice dance gold: