The decision on whether Nathan Chen should compete in either of the world figure skating championships for which he qualified no longer is discretionary.
The injury Chen suffered on a failed quadruple jump attempt during Sunday’s exhibition gala after the U.S. Championships has required left hip surgery that will knock him out of both the world juniors and world championships in late March.
A Thursday medical update from U.S. Figure Skating said Chen underwent the surgery to repair an avulsion fracture Wednesday in San Diego and will be able to return to the ice “with restrictions” in 8-to-10 weeks.
Chen, 16, had finished third at nationals, dazzling the live and TV audiences with history-making performances in both the short program and free skate.
He will be replaced at the World Championships in Boston by Grant Hochstein, who finished fourth at nationals, and at the World Junior Championships in Hungary by the new U.S. junior champion, Tomoko Hiwatashi.
It will be the first senior worlds for Hochstein, 25, (photo, right) who had not finished higher than ninth at the U.S. Championships in the previous five seasons. Hiwatashi, who turned 16 last week, had previously won national titles at the novice, intermediate and novice levels.
In an exclusive Tuesday interview with Globetrotting, Chen's coach, Rafael Arutunian, had raised the prospect of Chen’s missing worlds for his long-term good.
“What matters is not these worlds. What matters is that he is healthy for the future,” Arutunian said before learning the extent of the injury.
“There is a danger to do either (worlds). Nathan is ready to be in the (2018) Olympics right now. The most important thing is to keep him heathy.”
The injury occurred only hours after Chen became the first U.S. skater to land four fully credited quadruple jumps in a free skate.
Friday, he had become the first U.S. skater to land two quads in a short program.
He has had these growth (plate) problems but he was fine for the competition,” Arutunian said. “He didn’t need to do a quad in the exhibition. He is too motivated.”
Chen is the third top U.S. men's skater sidelined by injuries this season.
Jason Brown, a 2014 Olympian and 2015 U.S. champion, withdrew from the U.S. Championships after hurting his back in November. Brown unsuccessfully petitioned for a spot on the words team under USFS rules allowing such consideration.
Joshua Farris, the 2015 U.S. bronze medalist, has been out of competition since sustaining a concussion in July after falling on a jump in practice.
After the short program at nationals, Chen was asked about the risk of attempting multiple quadruple jumps, especially since he has faced knee, hip and shoulder injuries in the past. He insisted the jumps weren't the issue and that he worked on them only infrequently after first trying and landing one at age 14.
“Even the past two years, I haven’t (practiced) them too much,” Chen said. “All my injuries over the past few years are just related to my growth plates. As soon as (the growth plates) close, I’ll be completely healthy.”
Men's figure skating today all but demands multiple quads to have a chance at Olympic or world medals. Chen said he prepares to do them by working on getting more height and power in his triple jumps.
“I’m physically capable of doing two quads and three quads in the short and the long, respectively,” Chen said. “Now is the perfect time to try it, when I’m still young. When I get older, it’s going to be harder.”