World men’s champion Chen grabs lead at US skating finals

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Reigning world champion Nathan Chen landed an impressive quadruple and triple toe loop combination to seize the men’s lead after Saturday’s short program at the US Figure Skating Championship.

The 19-year-old from Salt Lake City, seeking his third consecutive US men’s crown, scored 113.42 points to take command over second-place Jason Brown, the 2015 champion, on 100.52 and third-place Vincent Zhou on 100.25.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue won their second consecutive US ice dance crown while Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc captured the US pairs title in other events contested at Detroit, Michigan.

Chen, a Yale University student, won Grand Prix events at Skate America and in France ahead of his second consecutive Grand Prix Final triumph last month at Vancouver.

Chen could match 2004-2006 champion Johnny Weir with the longest US men’s title streak since 1980s star Brian Boitano with success in Sunday’s free skate, which could include another quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination.

“I’m very happy with that short program,” Chen said. “The toe-toe was a highlight for me. It was one of the easiest I’ve done all week. Really glad it came through in competition. I’m looking forward to the long program tomorrow.”

Chen hopes for another solid skate to continue his momentum as he prepares to defend his world title March 18-24 at Saitama, Japan.

“Every competition is important to me. I try to focus on the present and do the best job I can,” Chen said. “But I hope to make the transition to worlds as well.”

In the pairs, Cain and LeDuc won the free skate with 141.89 points after placing second in the short program to finish first overall on 212.36 with Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, the 2017 US champions, second in the free skate on 133.32 and overall on 201.64.

Cain’s father and coach, Peter Cain, competed in pairs for Australia at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics.

Cain and LeDuc, third in 2017 and fourth last year in their only prior campaigns together, were nearly unable to compete after Cain was dropped on her head exiting a lift last month in an event at Zagreb. She was briefly unconscious but rose and completed the routine before being taken to the hospital.

“Oh my gosh we’re the champions,” Cain screamed when their winning scores were posted after they skated the final performance of the competition.

“This past month has just been insane. We didn’t have a ton of training but we were smart out there and I think that showed.”

Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea, the 2018 runners-up who won Friday’s short program, finished fourth in the free skate and overall.

In the ice dance final, Hubbell and Donohue followed up their rhythm dance triumph Friday by taking the free dance with 131.32 points for a total score of 215.88, providing a boost ahead of the world championships, where they finished second last year.

“We’re feeling pretty confident moving forward,” Donohue said. “We’re planning on working hard and seeing where it goes.”

Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the 2015 US champions, were second on 211.52, settling for the runner-up spot for a fifth time after taking third last year.