Karen Chen, Nathan Chen, and Maia and Alex Shibutani take gold.
Gold, baby. In what has to be an unprecedented, historic moment for the sport of figure skating, Asian Americans took home gold in three of the four events this weekend at the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships: Karen Chen won the women’s title, Nathan Chen took gold in the men’s event, and Maia and Alex Shibutani nabbed their second consecutive national title in ice dancing. Whaaaaaat.
17-year-old Karen Chen followed her record-breaking short program — choreographed by herself — Thursday night with a flawless free skate on Saturday to capture her first national title. Three-time champion Ashley Wagner finished in second place, while Mariah Bell took the bronze.
Chen’s victory comes as a bit of a surprise. She placed eighth last year after bursting onto the scene two years ago, finishing third at age 15. The new champion ends a dynasty of sorts, marking the first time since 2011 that neither Gracie Gold nor Ashley Wagner won the U.S. title.
Nathan Chen — no relation to Karen — landed a staggering five quadruple jumps on his way to claiming his first U.S. title. At age 17, he is the youngest U.S. men’s champion in 51 years. They’re calling him “America’s hope.” Scoring a record-shattering, ridiculous 318.47 points, he won by 55.44, the largest margin in U.S. Championships history. Vincent Zhou was a distant second, while Jason Brown came in third.
And yes, five quads. Chen is the first skater ever to land five quads in a single program. Although he trained his program with the additional quad — in competition it normally contains four — it was apparently a game-time decision to include the fifth in Sunday’s free skate. I guess he was feeling it.
Maia and Alex Shibutani, returning to the competition as reigning national champions, successfully defended their title to win ice dance gold. The siblings were outscored in the free dance by Madison Chock and Evan Bates, but their commanding lead from a record-breaking short dance was enough to win by 1.01 points. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue were third.
The “Shib Sibs,” perhaps the best hope for American gold at next year’s Winter Olympics, have been on fire since winning their first national championship a year ago. They won gold at the 2016 Four Continents Championships, silver at the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships, gold at Skate Canada and Cup of China, and bronze at the Grand Prix Final. This is their seventh career medal at the U.S. championships.
Welcome to the future of figure skating.