NAGOYA – Nathan Chen ended Japan’s run of five straight Grand Prix Final titles with a narrow victory over Shoma Uno on Friday night.
The 18-year-old American edged out the Nagoya native with a winning total score of 286.51 points after the free skate, taking home the gold by less than one point over Uno, who finished with 286.01.
Both skaters made multiple mistakes in their free skates in a less than artistic showing, but Chen’s nearly two-point lead after Thursday’s short program helped carry him to victory.
Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada was third with 282.00.
World champion Yuzuru Hanyu had won the past four GP Finals before missing out this season due to injury, while Daisuke Takahashi was the champion in 2012.
Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond leads after the senior women’s short program with 77.04.
Russia’s Alina Zagitova, last season’s world junior champion, is second with 76.27, while Satoko Miyahara stands in third on 74.61.
Chen skated to “Mao’s Last Dancer” and opened with a huge quadruple lutz/triple toe loop combination jump. He followed that with a quad flip, before doubling a planned quad salchow and falling on a quad toe loop.
Chen landed three quads in total and under-rotated another two, which was enough to top the podium.
“I’m happy to be Grand Prix Final champ,” stated Chen. “Last year I wasn’t expecting to be at the GP Final. So it’s an honor to win it this year.”
Chen said he intends to forge ahead with his plan for multiple quads in competition this season.
“I always want to challenge myself with quads,” Chen said. “I know I am capable of doing them. I’m excited. This is an Olympic season, which is an important season.”
Uno performed to “Turandot” and under-rotated his opening quad loop. He recovered to land a quad salchow and a quad flip, before receiving a poor grade of execution on a quad toe loop, then under-rotating another quad toe loop that he planned to do in combination with a double toe loop but did not execute.
Uno won the free skate with his three quads, but the errors on the other two helped contribute to his defeat in the final results.
“The quad toe loop today was the jump my body was not ready for,” Uno stated. “I was proud of getting both the quad salchow and quad flip done. I just need to work on the toe loop from now on.”
Osmond, the world silver medalist last season, skated to “Sous Le Ciel de Paris” and executed her elements nearly flawlessly. She landed a nice triple flip/triple toe loop combo early in her skate and went on to hit a triple lutz and double axel, all the while displaying nice line and edge.
“I’m feeling really good,” Osmond said. “I felt really controlled and I felt the program was really myself. The crowd was phenomenal.”
The women’s free skate is set for Saturday.
Zagitova, who won both of her GP assignments this season, appeared to step out on the landing of her triple flip, but was credited with full rotation for the jump.
Miyahara competed to “Memoirs of a Geisha” and was as elegant as ever. She began with a nice triple lutz/triple toe loop combo, before going on to hit a triple loop and a double axel.
The three-time national champion concluded her program with a sublime layback spin and received a standing ovation from the partisan crowd. Her score was just off her personal best in the short program of 74.64, set at last season’s GP Final.
“This season, I didn’t have the Grand Prix Final in my mind, but now that I am here I didn’t want to waste this amazing chance that I got,” Miyahara commented. “I thought my jumps were better than Skate America (which she won) and my scores were better as well.”
Wakaba Higuchi (73.26) is in fifth. The Tokyo native skated to “Gypsy Dance” and opened with a superb double axel. She added a triple lutz/triple toe combo, but received an edge call on her triple flip.
“Today’s performance was good, so I will try keeping my emotion and I would like to do my best in the free skate like I have practiced,” Higuchi said.
American Alexei Krasnozhon won the junior men’s gold with 236.35, ahead of compatriot Camden Pulkinen (217.10).
Krasnozhon under-rotated his opening quad loop, but went on to hit eight triples in the triumph.
Pulkinen vaulted from fifth after the short program to grab the silver.
Mitsuki Sumoto, who was third after the short program, held on to earn the bronze medal at 214.45. Sumoto skated to “Les Miserables” and fell on his opening triple axel, but landed six triples.
“I fell on the triple axel and stepped out on the last triple lutz, which was disappointing,” stated Sumoto. “I am fairly consistent on the triple lutz, but overall I feel good about my performance and the result.”
The junior women’s free skate, senior pairs free skate and senior short dance are all slated for Saturday.
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