In three-peating as U.S. champion, Nathan Chen dazzles everyone but his coach

In three-peating as U.S. champion, Nathan Chen dazzles everyone but his coach

DETROIT – What Nathan Chen did in Sunday afternoon’s free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships looked like otherworldly brilliance to everyone who saw it.

“Honestly, it’s incredible,” said Jason Brown, who had a chance to watch Chen because Brown had skated before him.

And yet Chen’s coach, Rafael Arutunian, refused to get carried away after his skater easily became the first man since Johnny Weir in 2006 to win three straight men’s national titles.

“I am not completely satisfied,” Arutunian said Sunday. “There is so much more he can do.

“He didn’t do a quad Salchow. I still want him to try a quad loop. This was a program he has executed before. You always like to improve.”

Chen was not surprised by hearing Arutunian’s comments.

“Raf is always the overachiever,” Chen said. “That’s why I am with him. Of course, there are things I can improve on.”

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At 4 feet, 7 inches, Alysa Liu leaps into history - and stands atop U.S. women's skating

At 4 feet, 7 inches, Alysa Liu leaps into history - and stands atop U.S. women's skating

DETROIT – The top step of the awards podium at Little Caesars Arena is 1 foot, 10 inches high.

Alysa Liu, who is 4 feet, 7 inches tall, needed to get to that step after Friday’s free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Liu stood in front of the podium, quickly sized up the chances of being able to jump from the ice onto the spot she had just earned and then let Bradie Tennell and Mariah Bell reach down to pull her up to the step between them.

It was the only extraordinary leap Liu did not attempt in the past two days.

Alysa Liu is helped onto the podium by silver and bronze medalists Bradie Tennell and Mariah Bell. AP Photo

She pulled off all the others, vaulting into the record books with a combination of insouciance, enthusiasm, ambition and stunning poise under pressure for one so young.

“She is the future of U.S. ladies’ skating,” said 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski. “And she will be the one to push the next generation forward.”

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Alysa Liu makes history but wants to make more

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Twenty-five seconds into her short program Thursday, Alysa Liu made history.

She was the first woman to land a triple Axel in the short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Not bad for a 13-year-old making her senior debut at nationals.

And not enough for Liu. She wants to make more.

“She definitely wants to be the youngest champion,” said her coach, Laura Lipetsky. “That’s in the back of her head.”

It won’t be easy. Liu, second after the short program, likely will need another historic performance to overcome reigning champion Bradie Tennellwho takes a 2.71-point lead into Friday’s free skate.

But one would not be wise to discount the possibility of Liu pulling it off.

For the whole story on NBCSports.Com, click here:

And for a brief story on Bradie Tennell taking command of the short program, click here:

Gracie Gold 's wise decision to forgo U.S. Skating Championships was "Gracie's alone" - and one of few clear answers to questions about her situation

Gracie Gold 's wise decision to forgo U.S. Skating Championships was "Gracie's alone" - and one of few clear answers to questions about her situation

The definitive thing about the Gracie Gold situation is none of us on the outside still knows much really definitive about the Gracie Gold situation.

Gold has addressed some of the uncertainty in soul-baring posts on social media, where she discussed her withdrawal from a November Grand Prix event after the short program and her withdrawal from the upcoming U.S. Championships.  Two days before she announced the nationals withdrawal, her coach, Vincent Restencourt, posted a vote-of- confidence message to her, with undated video of Gold successfully landing a triple jump in practice.

But U.S. Figure Skating had declined comment two months ago on seven questions I emailed about what factored into her decision to skate at Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, where her painful-to-watch short program was stunningly clear evidence Gold was far from a competitive level.  Her agent at International Management Group also did not respond to messages seeking comment at that time.

That is why I have refrained until now from writing anything more than a few matter-of-fact tweets about Gold since Rostelecom Cup.  There still are more questions than answers.

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As skating returns to the scene of the crime, a look back at how expected big story at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships was whacked into a footnote by. . .you know what

As skating returns to the scene of the crime, a look back at how expected big story at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships was whacked into a footnote by. . .you know what

“They say history repeats itself. It’s been 25 years since Detroit was the epicenter of the figure skating world.”

— From a U.S. Figure Skating promotional video for the 2019 national championships in Detroit.

Todd Sand’s first response to the question of what he remembered most about the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit is not as surprising as it seems.

“It was the year the pros were coming back,” Sand said. “That was the main chatter leading up to the season and the nationals.”

Indeed it was.

And the 1994 nationals would be the first significant place to gauge the impact of the International Skating Union’s 1992 decision to give professionals the option to be reinstated for Olympic-style events. That put 1988 Olympic champion Brian Boitano and 1982 world champion Elaine Zayak into the mix for the 1994 Olympic team, a competition made more cutthroat by the U.S. having earned just two spots in both men’s and women’s singles for those Winter Games in Norway.

The denouement of those comebacks figured to be the big story in Detroit.

“Yeah, right,” Zayak said, with a hearty laugh, when reminded of that scenario this week. “I really made a comeback the right year, huh?”

Zayak’s standing-ovation-worthy skating to get fourth place after seven years away from any serious competition and Boitano’s making the Olympic team with a disappointing second to Scott Davis now are among the footnotes to the most attention-getting and notorious story in the history of figure skating in the United States.

You likely remember it: The attack on Nancy Kerrigan by associates of Tonya Harding that marked its silver anniversary on Sunday.

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