(Reuters) -Nathan Chen won the U.S. Figure Skating Championships for a sixth consecutive year on Sunday in Nashville in dominating fashion to solidify his status as the gold medal favourite for next month’s Beijing Olympics.
Chen, whose sole defeat since the 2018 Pyeongchang Games came last October in the first Grand Prix event of the Olympic figure skating season, was far from perfect in his free skate as he fell twice but still did more than enough to separate himself from the pack.
The 22-year-old Chen was in first place after breaking his own national short program record on Saturday with a 115.39-point performance and returned to score 212.62 points in Sunday’s free skate.
Chen’s 328.01 total left him in a familiar spot atop the podium while Ilia Malinin (302.48) took second and Vincent Zhou (290.16), finished third.
“The competition was really tough today,” said Chen. “I’m glad to be a part of this generation and just looking forward to seeing where we can continue pushing U.S. figure skating.”
During his free skate, Chen fell early and then toward the end of the program laughed off a misstep that saw him faceplant on the ice during a choreographic sequence.
When it was all done Chen had completed six quadruple jumps between the two programs to extend his reign.
No American man has enjoyed such a dominant run at the national championships since twice Olympic champion Dick Button won seven consecutive titles from 1946 to 1952.
Malinin, a 17-year-old competing in his first national championships, landed four quads during a clean free skate but it was not enough to secure a ticket to Beijing as he was passed over for a spot on the team by a selection committee.
The committee, which considers results dating back to the January 2021 U.S. Championships, instead chose Chen, Zhou and fourth-place finisher Jason Brown.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in TorontoEditing by Toby Davis & Shri Navaratnam)