Figure Skating

U.S. ace Nathan Chen in high spirits on eve of World Team Trophy

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Two-time world champion Nathan Chen appeared in good form during the afternoon practice on Wednesday ahead of the start of the World Team Trophy here on Thursday.

Chen, who became the first American to defend the world title in 35 years when he triumphed last month in Saitama, worked on his free skate to “Land of All” and tore off one quad after another while barely breaking a sweat.

While some of the skaters competing here had a two-week break after the worlds, Chen’s was actually just one week, as he stayed in Japan to do “Stars on Ice,” then returned to classes at Yale University. Chen, who will turn 20 next month, said he felt good despite the short duration between events.

“Physically I feel all right. It was a little bit of a tight turnaround,” Chen stated. “Ultimately it is what it is and I got good training time in. I had a lot of time to focus on school after worlds and I feel pretty good coming here.”

Chen provided a preview of his strategy for the competition in Kyushu.

“I’m not going to do a quad flip or quad lutz here. Just do quad salchow and quad toe loop,” Chen commented. “I will do one quad in the short program and three in the long program.”

The Salt Lake City native indicated that the reason for the reduction in quads was due to the compressed nature of his trip home.

“I only had a week back in New Haven (Connecticut), and most of that time was spent studying because I had a lot of tests,” Chen remarked. “It’s the end of the season so I figured this was a good time for my body to recover a bit. Kind of takes things down a bit and enjoy the performance a little more.”

Chen is planning to begin work on his programs for next season not long after returns to the U.S.

“I will probably start pretty soon. I would love to get some exposure for them in shows this summer,” Chen said. “I did talk to Shae (Shae-Lynn Bourne), so hopefully that will come out to something, but it’s still pretty early.”

Chen noted that he is looking forward to competing with his teammates here.

“It’s awesome to be able to have Vincent (Zhou) on my team this time because we are all competing as team, so that’s really nice,” Chen stated. “I’m excited to compete in the team event since it’s a little different than competing individually.

You can foster a little more camaraderie amongst the other skaters.”

Zhou shared the podium in Saitama with Chen, taking the bronze medal behind Yuzuru Hanyu and ahead of Shoma Uno.

Chen likes his country’s chances in the six-team event, which the U.S. will be trying to win for the fourth time.

“Team USA is awesome,” Chen commented. “We have a bunch of great skaters and I think it will be a great competition.”

Japan, which has taken the title twice, will be led by Olympic silver medalist Uno, Grand Prix Final titlist Rika Kihira and Japan champion Kaori Sakamoto.

All came through practice unscathed on Wednesday.

Uno impressed in both the morning and afternoon sessions by landing huge triple axel/quad toe loop combos, while Kihira’s struggles with her triple axel continued.

“Although I landed the triple axel/quad toe combo in my practice, I’m not sure if I’ll do it in my program,” Uno said. “I want to try it, but maybe not in this event.

“I have trained hard after the worlds, without thinking of peaking (for) this event, I need more progress to be what I want to be.”

The other nations participating are Russia, Canada, France and Italy.

The World Team Trophy will begin with the rhythm dance on Thursday afternoon, followed by the women’s and men’s short programs.