Nathan Chen bursts out to resounding lead at Skate America after short program

Looking like a world champion even this early in the figure skating season, Nathan Chen easily won the short program at Skate America on Friday night with a personal best score.

Canada's Keegan Messing sits 3rd in 1st event of Grand Prix season

American Nathan Chen took a commanding lead with his performance in the men's short program at Skate America on Friday in Las Vegas. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Looking like a world champion even this early in the figure skating season, Nathan Chen easily won the short program at Skate America on Friday night with a personal best score.

Performing to Flamenco music in a spicy routine, the two-time world gold medallist and four-time national champion looked very much at home even without any fans at Orleans Arena. He hit a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination, a superb quad flip and showed off masterful footwork. His 111.17 points beat his short program high of 110.38 in last year's Grand Prix final.

Kicking off an already truncated figure skating season in the first event of the Grand Prix series, Chen was unchallenged.

"I felt great out there," Chen said. "I am happy where I am at."

WATCH | Chen eases to big lead in Las Vegas:

Nathan Chen grabs large lead at Skate America after Men's short program

2 years ago
Duration 5:33
American Nathan Chen leads the men's program at Skate America by nearly 12 points after his short program score of 111.17.

Chen is unbeaten since finishing fifth at the Pyeonchang Olympics in 2018. He's already showing where his focus is long before the 2022 Beijing Games.

"Of course, Beijing and any Olympics are a huge motivator for me," Chen said. "I think since I was a kid my family had raised me to be better, even if by a millimetre."

Instead, he's getting better by leaps and bounds, and he might not have another chance to show it until the U.S. championships in late January.

"As an athlete, we are really fortunate to have the opportunity to do this," he said.

Vincent Zhou, bronze medallist at the 2019 worlds, was second heading into Saturday's free skate, while Canada's Keegan Messing sat third with 92.40 points. Messing lives and trains in Alaska.

WATCH | Messing 3rd after short program:

Canadian Keegan Messing in podium position at Skate America

2 years ago
Duration 5:51
Sherwood Park, Alta., native Keegan Messing sits third overall at Skate America after his short program on Friday night.

Skate America is one of only four series events for 2020-21, with two others in Canada and France cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Grand Prix Final in Beijing also is cancelled.

Ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue lead after the rhythm dance, while Alexa Scimeca Knierim
and Brandon Frazier are tops after the pairs short program.

WATCH | Hubbell and Donohue dazzle in rhythm dance:

Hubbell, Donohue lead Ice Dancing field at Skate America

2 years ago
Duration 5:55
Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue opened Skate America with a strong rhythm dance performance and lead the Ice Dancing pack heading into Saturday's free dance.

As expected, Mariah Bell and Bradie Tennell finished on top of the women's short program.

Bell was smooth and solid in a program choreographed by 2018 Olympian Adam Rippon. Her 76.48 points were more than enough to beat Tennell, who had 73.29 and was marked down for under-rotation on her triple lutz-triple toe loop combination.

Bell, whose sensational free skate at the national championships in January earned her a silver medal behind two-time champion Alysa Liu — who is too young to compete in senior internationals — was grateful for the opportunity to display her routine.

"It was very interesting to not have a crowd here," Bell said. "We are so fortunate to have this event. I really enjoyed getting to skate today."

WATCH | Bell's career-best skate vaults her into lead:

Scimeca Knierim, Frazier hold Skate America pairs top spot

2 years ago
Duration 6:28
The American duo of Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead the pairs program at Skate America after posting a short program score of 74.19.

Bell nailed her triple flip-triple toe loop combination and had a perfect triple lutz, making everything look easy — particularly for the first major competition of the season, even if Skate America is limited to Americans and foreigners training in this country.

"I kind of had to revert to what it feels like to practice at home," she said, "and have to emphasize that and to put a little pressure on myself. I heard some [taped] clapping, and the stands are empty."

Tennell, the 2018 U.S. champion, has changed coaches and now works with the renowned Tom Zakrajsek in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

"We've tried to keep a lot of the things pretty much the same," she said, "because I know it works for me."

Audrey Shin was third heading into Saturday's free skate. Karen Chen, the 2017 U.S. champ, was fourth.

WATCH | Scimeca Knierim, Frazier top pairs standings:

Mariah Bell leads Skate America after career-best short program

2 years ago
Duration 5:42
Mariah Bell leads the women's program at Skate America after receiving a career-best short program score of 76.48.

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