By Ed Diokno
While Maia and Alex Shibutani attracted most of the attention of Asian Americans at the U.S. Figure Skating championships last week by capturing first in Ice Dance, another Asian American was also generating a lot of excitement by making a huge statement to the ice skating world: Watch out for Nathan Chen.
Sixteen-year old Nathan made history at the national championships by landing four quadruple jumps in his long program, more than any American skater ever, giving him a total of six over the two days of competition, a previously unthinkable number for a U.S. skater.
No American man has ever done more than three in an entire competition. By comparison, Yuzuru Hanyu, the 2014 Olympic champion, recently did a combined five quads in two performances – two in the short and three in the long. Chen is the United State’s best bet to have a chance to keep up with Hanoi’s athletic ability.
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“It was a big risk for me, but I thought this would be the best time to do it,” said Nathan. “I’m trying to set myself up as a senior skater, and I think this is a big step for me.”
However, four quads wasn’t enough to win. Nathan only placed third. Yes, third. Third place is enough to allow him to compete at the world championship in Boston a month from now.
He was beat by more experienced – but traditional skaters, Adam Rippon and Max Aaron, both of whom were less athletic than Chen but skated with more “grace” and fluidity.
Joining the Shibutani siblings and Nathan Chen will be Hawaiian-born Madison Chock and Evan Bates. The veteran team will compete in ice dance along with the Shibutani’s at the world championship in Boston.
Waiting in the wings are first alternate Mirai Nagasu in Women’s Figure Skating and for Pairs, the first alternate team of Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran and third alternate, Jessica Calalang and Zack Sichu.