Beijing hopefuls launch Olympic preparations at Skate America
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Winnipeg (Canada) (AFP) – Reigning three-time world champion Nathan Chen winning his fifth Skate America crown could be the closest thing to a safe bet this weekend as figure skating's international elite launch their 2022 Olympic season campaigns in Las Vegas.
With the Winter Games in Beijing just over 100 days away, the seemingly unbeatable US athlete will be looking to extend his global winning streak against top challengers Japanese Shoma Uno, the 2018 Olympic silver medallist, and fellow American Vincent Zhou.
"Having the realization that every competition is a great opportunity for me to show the work I have been putting in and that I have a limited number of competitions in my life, (I want to) make the most of each competition and enjoy myself the best I can," Chen said this week ahead of the event.
"I find that when I'm able to adopt that ideal I skate a lot better, or at least put myself in a position where I feel a lot more relaxed rather than worried what the outcome will be."
Chen routinely executes five quadruple jumps in his long programme. Uno and Zhou are also capable of executing multiple quads, but Chen's unmatched consistency has made him all but invincible in the three years since he settled for fifth place in 2018 Olympic Games competition.
Zhou, the 2019 world bronze medallist who sank to 25th place last March, comes to Skate America fresh off a win at the last chance Olympic qualifier in Germany.
"Since Nebelhorn Trophy, we have been cleaning up the jump elements, improving my spins and the packaging of my programmes, the cleanliness of everything," Zhou said.
"This year I find that flame has returned, and it's returned in full force. I have this boundless drive to want to show just how good I can be."
In women's competition, 2021 world bronze medallist Alexandra Trusova, of Russia, will be counting on her own arsenal of quadruple jumps to prevail over fellow podium contenders Kaori Sakamoto and Satoko Miyahara, of Japan, and South Koreans Kim Ye-Lim and You Young.
Russians are also frontrunners in the pairs event. Veterans Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov and young compatriots Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii, the 2021 world bronze medallists, are expected to battle for gold.
Meanwhile, American duos Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are the favourites among the ice dancers. Both couples have multiple world championship medals to their credit.
Skate America is the first of six events in the ISU Grand Prix series. Events in Canada, Italy, Japan, France and Russia follow.
In all, some 200 figure skaters from 20 countries will compete with the top six performers in each discipline facing off at the Final in Osaka, Japan in December.
Strict pandemic safety protocols are in place for Skate America, but masked fans will be allowed in Orleans arena to cheer on the competitors.
Competition begins Friday with the pairs and men’s short programmes.
© 2021 AFP