Nathan Chen, 17, has just won the men’s U.S. Figure Skating championship and is already being called “America’s hope.”
The Salt Lake City teen’s victory at the championships in Kansas City, Mo. comes less than one day after 17-year old Karen Chen won the Women’s title.
Nathan took the crown with one spectacular quad jump after another. Former Olympic Champion and NBC commentator Tara Lipinski called Chen a “quad machine.”
Placing a distant second was Vincent Zhou, 16. Traditionally the first two finishers qualify for the World Championships, but the U.S. Figure Skating Association announced earlier this week that the final decision on who goes to Worlds will be determined by the association, and not necessarily where skaters finish.
Nathan is not related to Karen Chen.
She dethroned 2016 champ Gracie Gold who struggled, as she has all year, at the championships.
Chen’s emergence has the U.S. already looking ahead to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
She hails from Fremont, CA, the home of the last Asian American Olympic gold medal women’s champion-Kristi Yamaguchi who won gold in 1992 in Albertville, France. Chen’s parents are from Taiwan.
“There was definitely a lot of pressure, knowing that I skated the short of my dreams,” Chen was quoted as saying by TeamUSA.org. “I wanted to follow it up with a close-to-perfect long, and I put some pressure on myself knowing that winning this thing or even just getting on the podium was definitely a huge possibility. And I just wanted to chase after that thought and just kept pushing through.”
— Team Swan (@team_swan) January 20, 2017
Ashley Wagner, who won gold in 2012, 2013 and 2015 took silver.
“That’s awesome for figure skating,” Wagner said about Chen’s performance to the Mercury News. “I think we’re going to be seeing a very strong world team.”
Mariah Bell took the bronze.
Chen first got noticed on the national scene in 2015 when she took bronze in the U.S. championships, at the age of 15.
Earlier in the day, , Maia and Alex Shibutani, won their second consecutive ice dance gold.
“A year out from the Olympics, this is exactly where we want to be,” Maia Shibutani said to NBC. “I know we’ve improved so much.”
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