Nathan Chen complicates Fernandez' quest for world skate three-peat

Javier Fernandez (left) of Spain and Nathan Chen of the U.S. (Getty Images)

Javier Fernandez (left) of Spain and Nathan Chen of the U.S. (Getty Images)

A year ago, when he was mapping out how to best prepare for a successful defense of his world title, Javier Fernández knew he had to add more high-scoring jumps to his programs.

At the 2015 Grand Prix Final, the Spaniard saw the best free skate of his career to that point still position him well behind Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu in the standings. So, Fernández attacked that gap by adding a second quadruple jump into his short program and a second triple axel into his free skate.

The plan worked, especially after Hanyu made several mistakes in his free skate at the 2016 World Championships. Fernández increased his element base value by five points, won the free skate by a whopping 32, and secured his second straight world title by another 19 points.

Now, as Fernández seeks a three-peat at this year's world championships -- which begin March 29 in Helsinki, Finland -- he finds himself facing a similar strategic dilemma against Nathan Chen of the United States. Chen's five quads in the free skate give him a base value that is nearly 12 points higher than the most the Spaniard has ever tallied.

Does Fernández, 26 next month, try to shrink that difference by adding a fourth quad to his free skate as Hanyu, 22, has done this season?

Fernández knows there are limits, even if the 17-year-old Chen has defied that notion in his first season on the senior international circuit.

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