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Nathan Chen, Max Aaron Top Podium At U.S. International Figure Skating Classic

By Gary R. Blockus | Sept. 16, 2017, 12:27 a.m. (ET)

Nathan Chen competes in the men's free skate at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championshipson Feb. 19, 2017 in Gangneung, South Korea.


Nathan Chen and Max Aaron drew standing ovations with their free skate performances at the 2017 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic on Friday, as the U.S. men’s figure skaters earned gold and silver, respectively, at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex in Utah.

Chen, the 2017 U.S. champion and Salt Lake City native who Friday night became the first man to land five different types of quads when he put a quad loop in his program, scored 183.22 in the free skate for a 275.04 total to take over first place from Aaron. He then had to wait and watch as Canada’s Liam Firus skated the final routine of the evening only to place third.

Chen, just 18, took the lead after the short program on Thursday night, followed by Aaron, and continues his upward trend after winning the 2017 Four Continents championship back in February.

Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion who won the Salt Lake City event, part of the ISU Challenger Series, three consecutive years from 2012-14, had moved into first place with two skaters to go in the free skate after upping his score to 261.56, only to be beaten by Chen.

Fellow Americans Tim Dolensky and Sean Rabbitt placed sixth and eighth.

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Team USA also placed two teams on the podium in pairs, with the husband-wife duo of Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim winning the silver medal with 186.08 points, and Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson taking the bronze with 181.40.

The Knierims won the 2015 U.S. championships and were the first U.S. pair in eight years to compete at that year’s Grand Prix Final. Alexa underwent three abdominal surgeries in 2016 and the couple returned to competition at the end of last season to earn silver at the Four Continents Championships, which was held at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea, and finish 10th at the world championships.

Liu and Johnson began skating together in 2014. They finished seventh at the 2017 World Junior Championships and sixth at the 2017 U.S. championships in their senior debut.

Other U.S. finishes included reigning U.S. champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier in fourth, and Deanna Stellato and 2014 Olympian Nathan Bartholomay in sixth.

The Classic concludes on Saturday with the free dance beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET and women’s free skate at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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