Nathan Chen Back on Ice, Going for Hard Quads Already

Chen lands quadruple lutz and flip at Golden West club competition; Gracie Gold debuts new tango short.

Half a year ago, Nathan Chen made history at U.S. Nationals with his quadruple jumps. He landed two of them in the short and four in the free, becoming the first American man in history to do either. He took bronze and a spot on the World team. Then, hours after that, he tore his hip. He was left needing surgery and unable to skate again until July. Whenever a skater who does that many hard jumps gets that kind of injury, one has to ask whether these things have anything to do with each other.

But it seems that even if that possibility has crossed Chen’s mind, he not’s being cautious. A month and a half after getting back on the ice, he started his season this weekend by competing at the Golden West Championships in Ontario, California. The Golden West is what’s known as a club competition, an unofficial event, run by a local skating club, where skaters skate in front of judges and are scored, but nobody really cares about the results, unless they’re the types of second-tier skaters who can get international assignments if they do well. Higher ranked skaters often do them in the summer to get mileage on their new programs or give federation officials a chance to evaluate them. Chen decided he didn’t just want mileage on his two new programs, he wanted it on his quadruple jumps too.

Therefore in the short he went for a quadruple flip in combination with a triple toe, and a solo quadruple lutz. Each of these two jumps has only been successfully landed once in international competition, the flip only last April. Technically Chen landed the flip, but both jumping passes ended with him on the ice:

In the free, however, he went for them both again, as well as a quadruple toe loop. We don’t yet know if they were ratified as fully rotated, but he stayed on his feet for them. Having to pause for two minutes between the quad flip and the quad toe because his music messed up didn’t even seem to stop him from pulling off the latter:

(One assumes he doesn’t have his costumes yet. Top tier skaters doing summer competitions often don’t.)

If he can land these cleanly in international competition, it will be a very big deal. But first he has to get there without injuring himself again. One hopes he and his coaches know what he’s doing, going for them this early in the year and this soon after his return to the ice.

Gracie Gold is forever tangoing

Chen was not the biggest name skating at Golden West. National ladies champion Gracie Gold also skated her short program there, although she does not intend to skate her free in front of an audience before the Japan Open competition on October 1. Back when she announced her music choices, eyebrows were raised at her skating a short to a tango piece, when she’d just finished a season where she skated a short to another tango piece. Skaters who are particularly good at one style might stick to it, but usually they don’t skate to something *that* similar. So everyone wanted to see if this would be that different from her last tango short:

In conclusion: not very. Although it probably doesn’t help the impression that she’s wearing the same dress from last year. She may be planning to change that, but who knows.

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