Figure Skating

Nathan Chen easily wins men’s title at Skate America

AP, Kyodo

Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto finished first and second, respectively, on Saturday in the women’s short program at Skate America, the first event of the 2018 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series.

Miyahara, last year’s champion, skated into a commanding lead with 73.86 points, while Sakamoto, the 2017 runner-up, trailed by 2.57 points.

“I was nervous, but I was able to turn that into power,” the 20-year-old Miyahara said.

“Since my goal now is to show in competition what I’ve done in practice, I think the short program was decent enough as a first step.”

Russia’s Sofia Samodurova placed third in the women’s standings with 64.41, while Marin Honda finished fourth with 62.74.

Nathan Chen ran away with the Skate America men’s title.

Skating to “Land of All” by Woodkid, the young American star had a clean and polished routine from the start, from his triple loop through the triple lutz. Chen earned a standing ovation from the crowd after his free skate, which earned 189.99 points on the day and 280.57 total for the event.

Perhaps most impressively, given that he won the competition by more than 41 points, Chen described his routine as “watered down” as he eases into the new Grand Prix campaign.

“The program, in terms of quad number, was definitely watered down,” Chen said, “but I think that, in terms of where I’m at in the program right now, it’s perfect. I’m looking to add more in, but at the same time trying to build on everything else.”

The 19-year-old Salt Lake City skater was the obvious fan favorite. Banners featuring his photo hung from railings, and his name was held up on posters throughout the audience. The only challenger who drew close to the same volume of cheers was United States teammate Vincent Zhou, who finished in fifth place but had the third-highest score of the day with 149.37.

Chen easily outpaced the competition. Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic finished second overall with 239.51 points, while Sergei Voronov also ended up on the podium with 226.44.

Chen is seeking to build upon a standout 2017, during which he won the World Championships, a second-straight national title as well as triumphed at the most recent Grand Prix final.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Chen said. “I didn’t attempt all of the quads that I’m capable of doing . because it can take away from my confidence a little bit, and my performance, and those are really important this year.”

Japanese skaters did not feature in the men’s events.

Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov won the pairs title.

Skating to “The Winter” by Balmorhea, Tarasova and Morozov topped the free skate with 133.61 points for a total of 204.85, more than 25 points clear of fellow Russians Alisa Efimova and Alexander Korovin.

Tarasova and Morozov had been almost as dominant during Friday night’s short program, carrying over a nine-point advantage into Saturday.

“Today, it was all about enjoying the program,” Morozov said. “The arena was great, and we enjoyed the support very much.”

Americans Ashley Cain and Timothy Leduc, who entered the free skate in fourth place, ran a clean routine to finish third. Cain and Leduc scored 117.34 points for a total of 175.06, with Cain celebrating their place on the podium with an emphatic fist pump.

“After our short program, we were really bummed,” Cain said. “We knew we weren’t far from the podium, but we also knew that our performance was not good. Today, it wasn’t perfect, but what we conquered was so much more than that. We conquered our fears, and faced them together.”

Americans Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim finished fourth at 171.56.

Tarasova and Morozov have had a strong year, in which they also won the European Championship, finished second at Worlds and fourth at the Olympics.