With Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou putting on a show, the U.S. Figure Skating team sits in first place and is poised to reclaim the gold medal at the ISU World Team Trophy in Fukuoka, Japan.
The U.S. leads the standings with 91 points heading into the third and final day of competition on Saturday, followed by Japan with 79 points and Russia with 70. The event, which is held every other year in Japan, is a team format with skaters earning points for their country based on their placements in short and long programs in all four disciplines.
Bradie Tennell and Mariah Bell will compete in the women’s free skate and Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc will skate in the pairs free skate on Saturday as the U.S. tries to win its fourth gold medal in six tries. The U.S. team has medaled every year the event has been held, winning gold in 2009, 2013 and 2015. Team USA took bronze at the last event in 2017.
That Chen and Zhou have been dazzling the judges and the crowds is no surprise. Chen is coming off winning his second gold medal in a row at the world championships, where Zhou earned the bronze medal this year.
In Friday’s free skate, Chen unleashed a trio of quads to win with 199.49 points and Zhou followed right behind him. Zhou became the first skater to land a clean quad Lutz with his arms over his head in the short program on Thursday, and in the free skate he also landed three quads and skated a near-flawless performance to score 198.50. Shoma Uno, of Japan, was the next closest to the two Americans, finishing in third with a score of 189.46.
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Team captain Madison Hubbell and partner Zachary Donohue held onto the third position in the free dance, scoring a 127.11. They were also in third after the rhythm dance on Thursday. This is their first time competing in a team competition.
Cain and LeDuc rounded out the U.S. performances on Friday, taking fifth in the pairs short program.
On Thursday, the U.S. was in third place heading into the men’s short program. The team would be in first after it ended.
Chen’s offerings included a triple axel, quad toe and a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combo to score a 101.95 and land in first place, and Zhou was right on his heels. His skate included a quad Lutz-triple toe and a quad Salchow to score a season’s-best 100.51 points.
Combined with Hubbell and Donohue’s third-place finish in the rhythm dance and the points scored by Tennell and Bell for their fourth- and fifth-place finishes, respectively, the U.S. finished Day 1 with 50 points, just ahead of hosts Japan with 48.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.