Wikimedia Commons

After claiming the top of the podium at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating National Championships in Greensboro, N.C., Olympian Nathan Chen ’22 has become the first man to win four consecutive national titles since Brian Boitano won first at the U.S. Championships in 1988.

Chen has joined a short list of men to accomplish this feat, including Olympic champions Scott Hamilton, David Jenkins, Hayes Alan Jenkins and Dick Button. In a free skate performance set to “Rocket Man” by Elton John, Chen impressed the judges last month when he landed a pair of quad toe loops, followed by a quad flip and an impressive quad salchow jump, beginning with a backward takeoff from the inside edge of one skate and landing on the backward outside edge of the other, with four full turns in the air.

Chen executed six quad jumps in six attempts between the free skate and the short program.

“The U.S. Championships was a great experience. It’s always nice to be able to perform for a home crowd and it’s very enjoyable to get a chance to showcase the work that has been put in by everyone thus far in the season,” Chen said.

With a total score of 330.17, the Jonathan Edwards sophomore distanced the runner-up Jason Brown by a margin of 37.29 points. Brown, skating to music from “Schindler’s List,” earned his best nationals finish since winning the title in Greensboro five years ago.

While unable to land a quad in the competition, Brown outscored Chen on artistic scores in the short program.

Commenting on the battle for the title at the U.S. Championships, Chen said, “the level of competition in the U.S. is outstanding, and it’s very inspiring to skate with all the other athletes.”

Tomoki Hiwatashi, the 2019 World Junior champion, placed third in the competition after an expert execution of a pair of quads in the free skate. But instead of Hiwatashi, fourth-place finisher Vincent Zhou, a first year at Brown University, will join Chen and Brown in the three-man world championships team. Zhou finished in fourth after landing one quad in the free skate, but he has arguably shown better performance over the past year according to the selection committee for the world team.

Mariah Bell, a friend of Chen’s competing for the women’s senior title, finished with 225.21 points in her competition to place second behind now two-time national champion Alysa Liu.

“The 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships was a really special experience for me. I have been to so many national competitions, but this one was by far the most memorable. I am most proud that I put out solid performances that were a good representation of how training has been going,” Bell said.

As the second-to-last skater to perform, Bell recovered from her short program score by vaulting onto the leaderboard with an impressive free skate to k.d. lang’s cover of the song “Hallelujah.”

Bell and Chen have been friends for most of their skating careers, and the two have recently seen more of each other on top of podiums at national and worldwide competitions. Like Bell, Chen has also shown consistent improvements over the past several years.

Since placing fifth in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Chen has won two world titles, in addition to two Grand Prix Final titles and third and fourth U.S. titles. Chen’s improvements since 2018 offer a glimpse of a prospective victory in the approaching 2022 Winter Olympics to be held in Beijing, but in the meantime, he’s keeping his eyes focused on the task at hand.

“I’m now back on campus and have a few weeks before I head off to Montreal for the World Championships,” Chen said.

The 2020 World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal will begin on Monday, March 16th and conclude on Sunday, March 22.

Andrew Bellah | bellah.bellah@yale.edu