The competition starts today, but already reigning World and U.S. National Champion Nathan Chen is burning up the ice. He came out blazing in practices and stands to loop and lutz his way to the Men’s title as the International Skating Union’s Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final (GPF) hits the ice in Vancouver, B.C.
In the past weeks, the ISU Grand Prix series travelled to six countries on three continents and a total of 139 skaters/couples competed. 40 Ladies and 40 Men, 25 Pairs and 34 Ice Dance Couples competed at events from Skate America in Everett, Wash. to Skate Canada in Laval, Q.C., on to the Grand Prix Helsinki, Finland and to NHK Trophy in Hiroshima, Japan before concluding with Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, Russia and Internationaux de France in Grenoble.
Team USA fielded some 46 single’s skaters and Pairs and Ice Dance teams but only three broke through to the final.
Ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, pictured top, wasted no time, becoming the first skaters to qualify for the GPF by winning the first two Grand Prix events. They not only made the final, the intense, smoldering couple stands in grand stead to clench the GPF title. The blonde and gorgeous Hubbell and the tall, dark and dreamy Donohue are the reigning US Champions and current World Silver Medalists. Check out their smoky, sexy Free Dance to music from the 1996 Romeo and Juliet soundtrack and soak in the sultry. They’ll be hard to beat in Vancouver.
Hubbell and Donohue aren’t the only American ice dance team competing. Perennial bridesmaids, Kaitlin Hawayak and Jean-Luc Baker finally get to skate down the aisle at their first GPF. With the dance field so incredibly deep in the US, Hawayek and Baker have often found themselves off the podium, but a fourth-place finish at GP France and a win at NHK Trophy gives them a shot to skate with the best in the world.
Speaking of the best in the world, Nathan Chen is also likely to check out of Vancouver with another crown and title. The King of Quads, having become the first skater to land seven clean quad jumps in a competition at the 2017 U.S. Championships, Chen has continued to rack up a flurry of firsts landing crazy quads and combinations at contests all over the world. He was the first to land five different quad jumps in competition making the mythical quad axle the only remaining jump he, and everyone else, has left to conquer.
Overachiever? Yep. Not only is Chen one of the top skaters in the world, he decided to up the ante and continue competitive skating while enrolling as a freshman at Yale University. So not only does the 19 year-old wunderkind combine training with a full course load — including classes in chemistry, math, English and Spanish, he trains on his own on Yale’s campus and at a rink 30 miles away.
Training is a challenge considering his coach, Rafael Arutyunyan, lives 3,000 miles away in Lakewood, Calif. So how does that work? Remote coaching via FaceTime!
Facing strong competition from Japan’s Shoma Uno (who had a rough outing at yesterday’s short program practice with two ouch-y falls, time will tell if Chen can defend his title here in Vancouver. Oh yeah, he’s also the reigning GPF champion. Anything this remarkable kid can’t do? Head scratch.
More to come from Canada.
— Coy Covington
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