Nathan Chen made history when he scored the first grand prix medal of his young career Saturday when he won silver at NHK Trophy in Sapporo, Japan.
The event was only his second grand prix (he finished fourth at Trophee de France two weeks ago) and his podium finish made the 17-year-old the youngest U.S. men’s skater to medal at a grand prix event.
Chen placed second in Friday’s short program as well as Saturday’s free skate to finish with a personal best combined score of 268.91, 32.56 points behind Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu. Skating in front of a home crown, the 2014 Olympic champion and four-time world championship medalist dominated the men’s competition, leaving the field behind by building a 15.95-point lead in the short program. Chen and Keiji Tanaka of Japan were the only two challengers to receive scores above 80, garnering 87.94 and 80.49, respectively, as Hanyu carried a comfortable cushion in the Saturday’s free skate.
Although he scored a personal best of 180.97 in Saturday’s free skate, Chen was the only skater within 30 points of Hanyu, who recorded a 197.58 to defend his NHK crown. Tanaka won the bronze medal, receiving a 167.95 Saturday for an overall score of 248.91. Chen’s total of 268.91 is the highest total received by a U.S. man in the current judging system.
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Chen’s second- and fourth-place finishes qualified him for the Grand Prix Final, to be held Dec. 8-11 in Marseille, France.
The silver medal signals that Chen is back into form after suffering a hip injury at the 2016 national championships, where he won the bronze medal. Surgery forced him to postpone his world championship debut last year. It also prevented his return to the junior worlds, where he had won bronze in 2014 and was fourth in 2015.
With four different types of quadruple jumps in his repertoire, Chen’s impact is expected to be felt in the final year of preparation for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. He already has flashed signs of brilliance, including his historic four quads in his free skate at the 2016 nationals. His short program score of 92.85 in France last month, a personal best, broke the American record of 90.30 set by Vancouver 2010 Olympic champion Evan Lysacek.
Jason Brown, the silver medalist at Skate America, finished seventh in Sapporo with a combined score of 218.47, while Grant Hochstein matched his 11th-place finish at Skate Canada, scoring 191.40.
In the ladies’ competition, Mirai Nagasu finished fifth, 15 points away from a podium finish, while Karen Chen was sixth. The lone United States pairs entry, Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea, enjoyed its best grand prix placement by finishing fourth, 13.12 points away from the bronze medal.