Battered skates give Nathan Chen the boot at World Championships

Battered skates give Nathan Chen the boot at World Championships

HELSINKI, Finland -- Everyone has a favorite pair of shoes, the ones so comfortable you will have them repaired over and over again and then wear them even after no repair will really hold them securely together.

For figure skaters, that situation is compounded by the stresses from torque and impact they put on their most important shoes: the boots with blades they wear in competition.

There frequently comes a time when a skater must decide between the risk in wearing battered boots and the risk in wearing a pair that is barely broken in -- or not broken in at all.

Such a moment occurred for Nathan Chen early in the week leading up to the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships, when the boots he had been wearing for three and a half weeks began to fall apart.

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As world meet veteran Wagner choked, rookie Chen bailed her out

As world meet veteran Wagner choked, rookie Chen bailed her out

HELSINKI, Finland – As much as Karen Chen tried not to think of anything but the World Championships free skate ahead of her Friday night, she could not avoid getting distracted.

While waiting to take the ice for the warmup in the final group of skaters at Hartwall Arena, Chen looked up at the video board and saw the overall standings of the 18 previous competitors. They showed her teammate, Ashley Wagner, significantly lower than expected.

At that moment, Chen realized there was extra pressure on her if the United States was to keep three women's spots for the 2018 Olympics.

"I admit it," Chen said with a smile, almost abashed to confess having let her mind settle on the three-spot issue for a few seconds.

"I did know I needed to skate really well," Chen continued. "I knew if I kept thinking about it, obsessing over the thoughts, I would not skate very well.

"I just had to play some mind games, block out the other thoughts and focus on myself."

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Chen's coach says six quads on the table for free skate

Chen's coach says six quads on the table for free skate

HELSINKI, Finland - Nathan Chen will apparently try to make history again Saturday.

Asked at an early afternoon practice Friday how many quadruple jumps Chen is likely to do in the free skate, the skater's coach, Rafael Arutunian, told icenetwork with no hesitation, "We are thinking about six."

The sixth, Arutunian said, would be a second quadruple lutz.

That could bring another can-you-top-this moment for Chen, 17, who two months ago became the first skater to land five quads in a free skate on his way to earning the U.S. title. He repeated the feat in winning the Four Continents Championships in South Korea last month.

"[Arutunian] hasn't told me that yet," Chen said, with a laugh, when the second quad lutz was mentioned. "We obviously have a lot of different variations that we can possibly do. So, whatever Raf said..."

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Sixth quad in a free skate? Nathan Chen might try it

Sixth quad in a free skate?  Nathan Chen might try it

HELSINKI, Finland -- Nathan Chen felt out of sorts. He stressed over having slept badly Wednesday night. His skating boots were literally letting him down, no matter how much duct tape he used to hold them together. His warmup before Thursday's short program at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships saw him fall on one quadruple jump attempt and a step out on the landing of another.

"I think the pressure got to me a little bit," he said.

Each issue made Chen a little more nervous about his world championships debut at the end of a season in which he had gone from a first-year senior with great promise to the cynosure of all eyes in the sport. He had become the U.S. champion, the Four Continents champion, and the first to land five quads in a free skate.

Now he faced 20 minutes between the end of his warmup and his start time, which he spent thinking about making sure the quads were secure and worrying about how the 11th-hour struggles might affect his performance.

"That kind of got me a little shook up," he said.

It would be more than a little ironic, though, that the last and best thing Chen did in the warmup was a very good triple axel -- the jump that has remained his nemesis as he leaped to the top of his sport with a dazzling number and variety of quads.

"Triples are hard," Chen would say with a laugh after the short program. "Quads are really my thing."

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This time, skating's scoring system adds up to excitement

This time, skating's scoring system adds up to excitement

HELSINKI, Finland - This is the 13th World Championships in which figure skating has used the oft-criticized scoring system developed in reaction to the pairs judging controversy at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

Every so often, the system's seemingly mathematical madness makes perfect sense in accomplishing one of its primary goals: keeping more than a few skaters in the running for a medal after the short program at a championship event.

That is exactly what happened here Wednesday in a ladies' short program of such overall quality that the top seven finishers received just one negative Grade of Execution (GOE) on their combined 49 elements -- and that was just a blip of -0.3 for Russia's Anna Pogorilaya.

It is what allowed 2016 world silver medalist Ashley Wagner of the United States to say she wasn't in too big a hole after finishing seventh with a clean -- if admittedly -- slow and cautious performance.

Seventh consigns a skater to the penultimate group in the order for the free skate final. In the pre-Salt Lake past, that position screamed, "Also-Ran."

"Today is not at all about placement," Wagner said. "My score has set me up for a great long program. I know I am in fighting distance."

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