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SENIOR LADIES ‘PASSION, FIERCENESS’ Chen puts it all together to win title Huge triple jumps, dizzyingly-fast


spins, gorgeous spirals, superb edge work and a serene but attacking performance quality helped lift 17-year-old Karen Chen (Peninsula SC) to the top of the podium at the 2017 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Kansas City. But what wasn’t visible to those who packed the Sprint Center for the champi- onship ladies final on Saturday night, Jan. 21, is something that’s deeply rooted in this diminutive Bay Area phenom. “There’s always been something spe- cial about her that you just can’t teach,” her coach at Riverside Icetown in Riverside, California, Tammy Gambill, said. “It’s some- thing inside her. She has that passion and fierceness in her. That’s something that comes across whether she’s having a good day or a bad day.” Those intangibles undoubtedly helped Chen capture her first title and halt the five-year run of championships won by Gracie Gold (Wagon Wheel FSC) and Ashley Wagner (SC of Wilming- ton). Wagner, the World silver medalist, earned her first U.S. silver medal in 10 championship-level appearances, while Gold’s season ended with a disappoint- ing sixth-place finish as well as with the announcement that her coaching re- lationship with Frank Carroll was over. Wagner’s new training mate, Mariah Bell (Rocky Mountain FSC), garnered the bronze medal. Although she came in under the radar


in terms of being a title contender, Chen showed in her record-breaking short pro- gram that she had turned the corner fol- lowing a subpar Grand Prix season. Performing to a self-choreographed


short program, set to music from Dave Grusin’s On Golden Pond, Chen was noth- ing short of brilliant. She opened with a huge triple Lutz-triple toe loop combina- tion and seamlessly worked her way to a beautiful closing layback spin. Her U.S. qualifying best score of 72.82 broke Gold’s


12 MARCH 2017


Wagner, Bell collect silver and bronze BY TROY SCHWINDT


MEDALISTS


Gold | Karen Chen Silver | Ashley Wagner Bronze | Mariah Bell Pewter | Mirai Nagasu


(l-r) Ashley Wagner, Karen Chen, Mariah Bell and Mirai Nagasu.


mark of 72.12 set at the 2014 U.S. Cham- pionships. 2008 U.S. champion and 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu was also outstand- ing in the short program, finishing second with 71.95 points. “I’m very happy with how everything


came together,” Chen, who won a bronze medal at the 2015 U.S. Championships, said. “I worked this program over and over, and I also choreographed it, so it’s just such a special program for me.” It was a monumental performance


following a year and a half of uncertainty because of boot problems and nagging in- juries, which plagued her all of last season and caused concern early in the current campaign. “It was definitely a struggle,” Chen


said. “I went through a lot of obstacles with the boots, resulting in some injuries, but I’m happy I got most of it resolved and I’m feeling good. I’ve learned from my past mistakes, and I’m just gaining more expe- rience and hopefully will keep improving


and getting better.” Chen’s training this season, Gambill


said, has been more settled than in the past when she would spend a lot of time commuting to the rink, school and back home.


“She’s settled down and gotten into


a better routine,” Gambill said. “She’s been more organized with her training and off- ice training and physical therapy work, so she’s very diligent about that. … She’s sta- ble and committed to the extra things she needs to do to stay healthy.” Despite turning in a record short pro-


gram, less than two points separated her from Nagasu and three-time U.S. champi- on and 2014 Olympian Wagner heading into the free skate. In her free skate to “Jalousie Tango,” by


Jacob Gade, Chen once again commanded the performance with a fast and sure ap- proach over the four-minute program. She landed six triple jumps, including an open- ing triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination.


JAY ADEFF/U.S. FIGURE SKATING


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