SAN JOSE, Calif. – The 2018 U.S. Olympic Men’s Figure Skating Team is comprised of three men all making their Olympic debuts, but make no mistake: This team is bursting with talent.
It was announced Sunday morning at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships that Nathan Chen, Adam Rippon and Vincent Zhou will represent Team USA at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 next month.
The team was selected based on their performance at a list of events, which was separated into three tiers, from the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. Chen and Zhou won gold and bronze, respectively, at the SAP Center Saturday night, while Rippon was fourth.
There is an 11-year age difference between the youngest and oldest men on the team.
All three men could be seen as medal threats at the Games – and have been on several international podiums each – but it is Chen on whom all eyes are focused.
Chen is a figure skating prodigy who the world has been watching since he became the youngest U.S. novice champion ever at age 10. He has continued to make history every step of the way and now the 18-year-old is one of the greatest senior skaters the U.S. has ever seen. Chen is expected to land on the podium, possibly the top step, in PyeongChang.
The elder statesman of the team, Rippon’s Olympic debut was a long time coming. He has been competing on the senior circuit for 10 years and tried to make the Olympic team twice before, finishing fifth at nationals in 2010 and eighth in 2014. Now 28, Rippon is in the prime of his career and putting out his best performances nearly every time he steps on the ice.
Rippon is expected to be the first, or one of the first, openly gay man to compete for the U.S. at the Winter Olympics.
Zhou, like Chen, is a teenaged – and quadruple jump – prodigy. Then 16, he finished second at the 2017 U.S. championships but was too young to compete at senior-level world championships, so instead he won gold at junior worlds.
Jason Brown, Ross Miner and Max Aaron were named as alternates to the Olympic team, in that order.
Meet the athletes representing Team USA in Korea:
Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah
Training Town: Lakewood, Calif.
Age During 2018 Olympics: 18
Years Competing As A Senior: 4
His Story: Chen won his first national title at age 10, as a novice, and now owns six gold at the event – two as a novice, two as a junior and two as a senior. At his second senior U.S. championships in 2016, Chen became the first American to land two quadruple jumps in his short program and the first to land four in his long; he won bronze that year. The next year he became the first skater of any nation to land five quads in one program. Often dubbed the “quad king,” Chen now has five different quads in his repertoire. Last season, he became the youngest American man to earn a grand prix medal when he took silver at NHK Trophy, and then he was the second-youngest man of any country to medal the Grand Prix Final. In the second half of the season, he defeated 2014 Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu for the Four Continents title. After finishing second at the event last season, Chen won gold at the Final in 2017, becoming just the third U.S. man to do so.
U.S. Championships Medals: Gold (2017, 2018), Bronze (2016)
International Career Highlights: Chen won bronze at the 2014 junior world championships and won the junior Grand Prix Final in 2015. In his first season on the senior grand prix series, he was second in Japan and fourth in France before finishing second at the Final; he was then sixth at worlds for the best showing by an American man. This season, he won both his grand prixs, as well as the Final.
How He Performed At Olympic Selection Events: Tier 1… Chen won the 2018 U.S. championships, won gold at the 2017 Grand Prix Final and finished sixth at the 2017 world championships. Tier 2… Chen won gold at both his grand prix assignments this season, as well as at the Four Continents Championships. Tier 3… Chen won gold at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic and at the 2017 U.S. championships.
Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.
Training Town: Lakewood, Calif.
Age During 2018 Olympics: 28
Years Competing As A Senior: 10
His Story: Rippon has been at this longer than most figure skaters, now competing against athletes 10 years his junior and often saying to reporters he is “no spring chicken.” And yet he has continued to be a podium threat throughout his decade-long senior career, finally winning his first national title at age 26 in 2016 after twice missing out on the Olympic team. He made the Grand Prix Final for the first time earlier that season. Those successes came shortly after Rippon came out as gay in October 2015; he told TeamUSA.org that the announcement has helped him on the ice, saying, “When I came out was when I was able to breathe. When everyone knew, I didn’t feel like I was hiding anything.” Now he is the first openly gay U.S. athlete to make a winter Olympic team. After breaking his foot weeks before the 2017 U.S. championships, Rippon was unable to defend his title, but like a phoenix rising from the ashes he came back stronger than before and won two grand prix silvers, again qualifying for the Final. He had a stellar short at the 2018 U.S. championships that put him in second, but made several mistakes in the free skate and fell to fourth; however, his Olympic spot was saved by his international successes.
U.S. Championships Medals: Gold (2016), Silver (2012, 2015), Pewter (2018)
International Career Highlights: Rippon won two world junior championship titles in a row in 2008 and 2009, plus the 2007 junior Grand Prix Final title. On the senior grand prix circuit, he has racked up seven mdals, though none are gold. Rippon has had his best international showings the last two seasons, medaling at both his grand prix assignments for the first time in 2015 when he earned two bronzes and qualified for his first Grand Prix Final, where was sixth. This season, he won silver at both his grand prixs and finished fifth at the Final. His career-best worlds finish is sixth, which he placed in both 2010 and 2016.
How He Performed At Olympic Selection Events: Tier 1… Rippon was fourth at the 2018 U.S. championships and fifth at the 2017 Grand Prix Final. Tier 2… Rippon won silver at both his grand prix assignments this season, NHK Trophy and Skate America. Tier 3… Rippon was third at the 2017 Finlandia Trophy.
Hometown: Palo Alto, Calif.
Training Town: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Age During 2018 Olympics: 17
Years Competing As A Senior: 3
His Story: Zhou won the U.S. novice title in 2012 and quickly rose through the ranks, taking the junior national title the following season. He would sit out the next two seasons, however, with injuries. Once he returned, Zhou was eighth at his first senior nationals in 2016. The following season, he won silver behind Nathan Chen at the U.S. championships; what a difference a year makes. Zhou landed two quads and eight triples en route to that silver medal. While he was too young to compete at the senior world championships, he went to his second junior worlds instead and won gold. He struggled to remain consistent throughout this season, finishing fourth and ninth at his grand prix assignments, but earned bronze at nationals with an attempted five quads in his long (he fell on one and three were under-rotated).
U.S. Championships Medals: Silver (2017), Bronze (2018)
International Career Highlights: Zhou is the reigning junior world champion, a title he earned after a personal-best free skate vaulted him from fifth to first. In the first two grand prix assignments of his young career this season, he finished ninth and fourth. He also competed at a Challenger Series event this fall, taking silver at Finlandia Trophy.
How He Performed At Olympic Selection Events: Tier 1… Zhou was third at the 2018 U.S. championships. Tier 2… Zhou was fourth and ninth at his 2017 grand prixs, the first of his career. Tier 3… Zhou was first at junior worlds, second at the 2017 U.S. championships and second at the 2017 Finlandia Trophy.