Figure Skating

Chen, Zhou excel again as U.S. takes commanding lead at World Team Trophy

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

The powerful tandem of world champion Nathan Chen and world bronze medalist Vincent Zhou helped the United States open up a big lead on the second day of the World Team Trophy on Friday at Marine Messe.

Chen won the free skate and the men’s competition with a total score of 301.44, while Zhou came in a close second at 299.01. The dynamic duo’s 1-2 finish gave the U.S. a tally of 91 points and a 12-point advantage over second-place Japan with 79. Russia is in third place with 70 points.

Shoma Uno was third behind Chen and Zhou with a tally of 282.24.

The Hinomaru will look to close the gap with the U.S. on Saturday when Grand Prix Final titlist Rika Kihira and Japan champion Kaori Sakamoto take the ice for the women’s free skate.

The victory completed a perfect season for Chen. The freshman at Yale University won every full competition that he entered this season — his two Grand Prix assignments, the GP Final, U.S. nationals, world championship and World Team Trophy.

The only event Chen did not win was the exhibition Japan Open last fall, where he finished fourth, when he performed only his free skate.

Chen’s triumph was even more impressive when he revealed that he was dealing with upper respiratory issues earlier in the day at practice.

Chen skated to “Land of All” and landed three clean quads and five triples on the way to victory. The only blemish came on his triple axel midway through the program when he put his hand down on the ice to prevent a fall.

The 19-year-old Chen received level fours on his spins, but just a level three for his step sequence.

“I’m upset about that triple axel. It was the last axel of the season and I didn’t hit it,” Chen stated. “I kind of ruined that streak, but it’s something to look forward to for next season.”

The Salt Lake City native was satisfied with his performance under the circumstances.

“I think the program went OK. I was definitely holding back a bit as I am a little sick right now,” Chen noted. “I put 100 percent effort into the program and was happy I was able to do it.”

Chen was asked if he was already looking ahead to the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

“Everything we do since we were little kids is geared toward the Olympics,” Chen commented. “From a realistic standpoint, three years is a long time. I don’t even have a plan for next season yet. So as of now we have to focus on that and go year by year.”

Vincent Zhou had a fantastic skate to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” The 18-year-old landed three quads (lutz, salchow, toe loop) plus six clean triples with an electrifying performance that brought the crowd to its feet in appreciation.

Zhou earned level fours for his spins and step sequence and displayed his unrestrained joy at the completion of his program by pumping his fists and slapping the ice.

Zhou credited his work this week with coach Mie Hamada for helping him to obtain the result.

“That was the best skate I have ever had,” Zhou noted. “I felt more relaxed and confident in my technique than before. I think the reason for that is working with Hamada-sensei has really helped me develop my jump technique to a point where I can be more sure of where my body is and stack over myself so I have a better axis and landing.”

Zhou was very pleased when he saw the scores of the judges after his free skate.

“All the jumps were called clean. I think that was right this time,” Zhou remarked. “Everything felt super good and I’m proud to finally have a truly clean protocol.”

Shoma Uno competed to “Moonlight Sonata” and looked strong in the first half of his skate, landing two quad flips. However, he under-rotated his quad salchow, then fell when he went for a huge triple axel/quad toe loop combo that he has been working on in practice this week.

Uno posted level fours for all of his spins, but only managed a level two on his step sequence.

The Olympic silver medalist indicated that the rigors of the long season have taken a toll on him.

“I felt that I really lacked stamina,” Uno said. “I realized that what I can’t do in practice, I can’t do in the real competition. I need to practice more.”

Uno was asked about inclusion of the triple axel/quad toe loop combo in his free skate.

“I have been practicing it and was determined to include it. There was no specific reason other than I wanted to do it,” Uno stated. “I felt fatigued after the salchow and didn’t have enough energy to complete the triple axel/quad toe loop. I lost control, but want to be able to incorporate it in the future.”

France’s world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron won the ice dance after the free dance with a total mark of 223.13. Russia’s Victoria Sinistina and Nikita Katsalapov were second at 215.20.

World bronze medalists Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert of Russia lead the pairs after the short program with 75.80. France’s Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres are second at 73.48.

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