Chen wins short program at US figure skating championhips

Washington (AFP) – Three-time world champion Nathan Chen, a top contender for Beijing Olympic gold, won the men's short program on Saturday at the US Figure Skating Championships.


Chen received 115.39 points, breaking his own championship record, and will try to capture his sixth consecutive national title in Sunday's free skate at Nashville, Tennessee.

"Was a little shaky at the end but overall I'm happy with how I skated," Chen said.

Vincent Zhou, the 2021 Skate America winner who placed sixth at the 2018 Winter Olympics, was second on 112.78 with 17-year-old Ilia Malinin third on 103.46.

"It's amazing to be able to have such strong US competitors heading into an Olympic season," Chen said.

A US Olympic selection committee will pick the American men to compete next month in China, taking performances in other events into consideration, but Chen's trip appears to be all-but set in stone.

Chen, 22, finished fifth in the men's event at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, where he helped the US squad to a bronze medal in the team event.

After his Olympic defeat, Chen won the 2018 world title and began an unbeaten run in all competitions that ended only last October when he finished third at Skate America.

Chen set free skate and overall scoring records at the 2019 Grand Prix Final for his third straight triumph in the event.

Covid-hit Liu to Beijing

The selection committee announced the three US women who will skate at Beijing, picking Covid-hit two-time US champion Alysa Liu to join 2022 US champion Mariah Bell and runner-up Karen Chen in China.

Liu, 16, and Amber Glenn dropped out after the women's short program after testing positive for Covid-19.

Liu, who waved to fans via videoscreen and camera while in isolation, must get a final medical clearance and show she can perform a full routine.

Bell, 25, is the oldest US woman's skater in 94 years at the Olympics.

"I'm so grateful. It's something I've been working for for a very long time. It doesn't feel real," said Bell.

"Age is just a number. It literally means nothing."

Chen considered retiring after she was 11th at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

"It's such a dream to be on this team," she said. "It means so much. I kept chasing my dreams and stayed as fearless as possible and here I am."

Covid-19 forced three more withdrawals from the event Saturday, bringing the total number for the week to seven. William Hubbart withdrew before the men's short program and ice dancers Rafaella Koncius and Alexey Shchepetov exited before the free dance.

Reigning pairs champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier did not compete after Frazier tested positive.