Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou join Jason Brown in US Olympic figure skating – NBC 6 South Florida

Three-time world champion Nathan Chen has proclaimed 17-year-old Ilia Malinin the future of American figure skating.

Maybe, but Malinin’s gift won’t include the Beijing Olympics.

That honor belongs to Chen, who won his sixth consecutive national title on Sunday, and veterans Vincent Zhou and Jason Brown, whom the selection committee chose over Malinin to represent the U.S. team at next month’s games.

“This team is amazing, just the amount of experience we all have,” Chen said. “I think regardless, we’ll have some great skaters there. And coming back to the experience, I think it’s so important. I went to events for the first time and things didn’t necessarily go the way I wanted them to. It is really intimidating.

Indeed, it was so intimidating four years ago that Chen stumbled in his short program in Pyeongchang to reduce any chance of winning an Olympic medal. He finished disappointing fifth – with Zhou one place behind him.

Meanwhile, Brown completely missed the 2018 squad after finishing ninth at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

“I lived all the scenarios: the youngster who succeeds, the guy who is excluded from the team. I feel so for (Malinin), ”said Brown, who can’t touch Malinin’s jumping ability but makes up for it with his artistry and leadership.

“It’s really tough,” Brown said. “Anyway, there is no easy solution when you look at the pitch. I am so proud of the density of the male peloton. It’s amazing. Just watching (Malinin) grow and shine – he was amazing tonight.

The selection committee had to choose three skaters for the Olympics who did not complete the national championships: Alysa Liu in the women’s team and Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in pairs. Liu and Frazier have tested positive for COVID-19 and have stepped down.

The rest of the roster includes United States champion Mariah Bell and Karen Chen in women; gold medalists Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc in pairs; the titlists Madison Chock and Evan Bates, as well as Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker in ice dancing.

“It’s going to be a different Games than what we can imagine and what other people are going through,” said Baker, “but I know we’re going to be surrounded by such amazing people. The outfits look pretty cool too.

Like most young skaters, Frazier had developed in his mind a carefully crafted image of what it would be like to learn that he had finally achieved his Olympic dreams. But the reality was very different after his positive COVID-19 test; he simply had a Facetime conversation with Knierim while waiting for the negative tests that would free him from his hotel quarantine.

“I never imagined it as if it really happened last night,” Frazier said on Sunday, four days after his positive test forced the couple to withdraw from the U.S. figure skating championships and apply for an appointment. up to the Winter Olympics.

“But that’s when I knew it meant the absolute world to me,” Frazier said, “because it meant so much to me.”

Gain-Gribble said she found out she was going after she finished “a huge pizza and cookie dough so I was feeling pretty good.” LeDuc, the first non-binary Olympic athlete, got his call just as he arrived at his family’s Airbnb rental.

As for Frazier, sitting alone in his hotel room?

“I squeezed the shit out of that pillow,” he said with a Cheshire cat-like smile.

Nathan Chen’s first Olympics four years ago didn’t go very well, but he knows he will arrive in Beijing as one of the favorites in men’s figure skating, not only because of all the hard work he has done. ‘he performed on the ice, but because of the way he also learned to relax.

There was no drama in the three chosen dance teams. Chock and Bates will carry the momentum of a record national championship victory to their third Olympics; Hubbell and Donohue will look to improve on fourth place at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang; and Hawayek and Baker give the Americans a third team that could stand on the podium.

“It’s the honor of a lifetime. It’s the greatest honor we can get in our sport, ”said Bates, who will be on his fourth Olympic trip after going there in 2010 with his former partner Emily Samuelson. “We’re lucky to go back for the third or fourth time, but it never gets old, it’s always special every time.

Unlike their teammates, Hawayek and Baker will experience the Olympics for the first time. It has been a long and difficult road for both men, who both returned from concussions, including Hawayek’s last summer.

“Clearly, I didn’t know what the development of the injury would look like as we entered the Olympic season. There was a lot of doubt as to whether we would be able to come back to a place ready for competition, ”she said. “I think we’ve prepared ourselves to continue to grow over the winter. “

The three American teams, friends as well as rivals and training partners, work under the watchful eye of Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon and Romain Haguenauer at the Gadbois Center in Montreal.

2018 Olympic silver medalists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron also train there, the French ice dancers who had the top scorer of the Grand Prix season and possibly their biggest competition in Beijing.

The three American dance teams plan to spend the next three weeks in Canada, to complete the work for Beijing. But like the rest of the US contingent, their biggest goal is not so much to refine performance but to make sure they stay healthy with the rampant COVID-19.

“We’re in our bubble, doing what we can control, and right now the # 1 concern for all of us over the next 20 days is being healthy,” Hubbell said. “We all have to travel and be on a plane and be around people, and COVID is definitely our # 1 concern. It’s the next thing that can stand in the way of all of our dreams. We’re going to be as diligent as possible to do this. to our best and represent the United States team with honor.

Figure skater Jason Brown talks about the creative ways he’s stayed in shape during the lockdown.

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