SportsOlympics

Actions

U.S. Figure Skating Championships Day 4 recap: Nathan Chen rockets to sixth national title, Malinin a surprise second

U.S. Figure Skating Championships Day 4 recap: Nathan Chen rockets to sixth national title, Malinin a surprise second
Posted at 11:32 AM, Jan 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-09 22:54:29-05

MEN'S FREE

In the evening’s final performance, rocketman Nathan Chen laughed off a fall – but still delivered an out-of-this-world showing set to an Elton John medley. 

His free skate earned him 212.62 points for a 328.01 total – and a sixth straight U.S. Championships title.  

Chen is now the second man in 70 years to win six national titles, joining Todd Eldredge.

“This was a really fun Championships, the crowd was amazing,” Chen said after his victory. “It’s always great to be at a Championships with people and support – this was a great time.” 

“For Nathan, the ‘limit’ doesn’t exist,” commentator Tara Lipinski said during the NBC broadcast. 

"It's getting hard to come up with superlatives to describe Nathan Chen," commentator Johnny Weir added.

SEE MORE: U.S. Championships: Chen breaks short record with 115.39 pts

Virginia's 17-year-old Ilia Malinin surprised in second with 302.48 points. Vincent Zhou struggled on the ice, but barely edged out Jason Brown for third with a 290.16-point total.

Malinin entered the free skate in third place, following an unexpected – and excellent – short program that earned 103.46 points. His was the penultimate skate on Sunday, and followed surprisingly poor showings by Zhou and Brown.

Simply put, Malinin blew everyone not named Nathan Chen out of the water with a fast, near-flawless performance: “He will be the face for U.S. men’s skating in 2026,” Lipinski said, describing him as “the quad prince.” Malinin had nothing to lose, and gained everything -- including, most likely, one of three available Olympic berths. 

 

SEE MORE: U.S. Championships: Breakout star Ilia Malinin talks second

The free skate competition certainly didn't follow expectations. Zhou, skating to a medley by Tan Dun and Kiyoshi Yoshida, arrived strong in second following his 112.78-point short program. However, he suffered a few messy falls and slips during his highly technical routine. Zhou's numerous errors, including several under rotations, lacked the usual magic that the athlete often displays. Zhou scored only 177.38 points for his free skate, scraping past Brown's fourth-place 289.78 total.

SEE MORE: U.S. Championships: Zhou scores 112.78 for second in short

Jason Brown, in fourth place following Saturday's short program, was the first real medal contender to take to the ice. Brown endured almost comically bad luck during his serpentine trip to the Championships, involving multiple plane delays and a long car trip. He was hit with more awful news prior to competition: Coach Tracy Wilson tested positive for COVID, and wouldn’t be able to attend the free skate.

Performing his first jump, a quad Salchow, Brown took a nasty spill. He quickly recovered and completed his highly artistic (yet technically lacking) routine without any major further errors, but ended in tears.

We'll soon see whether those tears were warranted, as a U.S. Figure Skating committee determines which athletes will claim the three men's singles Olympic berths -- taking into account other recent tournament scores and results. 

U.S. Figure Skating will make the official announcement regarding the men's team at 6:45pm ET. Check NBCOlympics.com for updates. 

UPDATE: Chen, Zhou, and Brown were selected for men's Olympic team. Read more here.

Full results from all events at the 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships are available here.