American Chen wins gold at Skate Canada

Vancouver (AFP) – A trio of Russian women swept their Grand Prix podium at Skate Canada International on Saturday, while three-time world champion Nathan Chen grabbed gold in emphatic fashion.


Kamila Valieva, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Alena Kostornaia finished 1-2-3 in Vancouver, repeating their success at Finlandia Trophy earlier this month.

En route to victory, Valieva, 15, landed three beautiful quadruple jumps, two in combination with triples, in her magnificent interpretation of Ravel’s Bolero.

Valieva, who performs most jumps with both arms overhead, smashed her own record scores from Finland, posting 180.89 for her finale and 265.08 overall, even with a step out on her triple Axel landing.

With that, the 2020 world junior champion established herself as an Olympic gold medal favourite with the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing just 97 days away.

“I did today everything planned in my program but I’m really excited about these scores, and I will try to do even better than that,” Valieva said.

“The triple Axel could have been better, but I’m not planning to add more (technical) difficulty.”

Tuktamysheva hit two triple Axels in her saucy Arabian-themed routine (151.64), while Kostornaia had a rough landing on her jump (138.96).

Tuktamysheva finished the meet with 232.88 points to Kostornaia’s 214.54.

For Chen, it was mission accomplished as he rebounded from last week’s atypical bronze medal at Skate America with a masterful yet somewhat less risky skate.

He opted for four quadruple jumps rather than the six he attempted -- with two misfiring -- in Las Vegas.

The U.S. champ scored a convincing 200.46 points for his Mozart-backed performance, 307.18 in all, to finish some 50 points ahead of teammate Jason Brown (259.55) and Grand Prix rookie Evgeni Semenenko, of Russia (256.01).

Canadian Keegan Messing had a calamitous performance to drop from third to fifth.

“Always with competitions, I want to push myself a little bit forward even if it means taking out an element to be a little cleaner.

“I’m excited to go home, train and, hopefully, I’ll have another competition (in Osaka) five weeks from now,” said Chen, who is nursing a minor hip injury.

The 26 points Chen earned for his first and third finishes will likely be enough for him to rank among the top six who qualify for December’s Grand Prix final in Japan.

In pair competition, twice world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong were unquestionably golden, despite Sui’s fall on her triple salchow.

The duo earned 145.11 points for their lyrically serene “Bridge over Troubled Water” programme, with a total score of 224.05.

Russians Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin struggled in the early going in their Black Swan-themed performance but regrouped mid-way to hold second on 193.08 overall.

Americans Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy Leduc took bronze (189.90).

China’s 2018 Olympic silver medallists, whose ultimate goal is to pocket gold on home soil, compete again next week in Italy.

In ice dance, 2021 bronze medallists’ Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier claimed their second Skate Canada gold.

The Canadians’ total score of 210.97 was well clear of Italians Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri (200.05) and Spaniards Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz (192.93).

Next week’s ISU Grand Prix competition in Turin was relocated from China due to pandemic-related travel complications.