LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — American skaters Nathan Chen and Adam Rippon gave the home crowd what it wanted Friday night: Chen with a pair of powerful quad jumps, and Rippon with what he calls a “trashy dance-club program.”
“I think we made a good team. I think we’d make an even better Olympic team,” Rippon said with a big smile.
The fans and judges at Skate America agree. Chen and Rippon hold the top spots following the men’s short program at the last Grand Prix event before the Final.
Chen leads with 104.12 points, and Rippon is next at 89.04. Both Olympic hopefuls are still trying to qualify for the Grand Prix Final in Japan next month.
Chen landed two quad jumps, including one in combination with a triple toe loop. Chen will attempt five quads in the free skate Saturday night. An 18-year-old breakout star with gold medal aspirations at the Pyeongchang Olympics, he became the first skater ever to do five quads in one program at nationals in January.
His biggest challenge Friday: a nick in the blade of his skate
“It’s something that we’re addressing right now and it should be fixed for tomorrow,” Chen said.
Rippon gasped when his score was revealed after one of the best shows of his career. He skated to “Let Me Think About It” with flair, and the audience reacted. Fans clapped along as the 28-year-old performed, and he egged them on by pumping his arms after finishing.
“I like to show off,” he said.
The home favorite did not perform his signature Rippon lutz — a triple jump he performs with both arms over his head. He said he hasn’t tried it since separating his right shoulder in practice trying to mimic Chen’s choreography over the summer.
Jin Boyang of China entered with the most Grand Prix points in fifth place, but he scaled back his program and finished with a 77.97. Jin said through a translator he has a sprained ankle.
Russia’s Sergei Voronov is in third place at 87.51. Ross Minor of the U.S. is eighth with 71.59.
Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford lead a field of frustrated pairs skaters after the short program. Duhamel said the 2014 Grand Prix Final winners felt “tight,” and they struggled with their twist. The two-time world champions won at Skate Canada this year but were disappointed to lose levels on three elements Friday.
The Canadians didn’t think they’d stepped back.
“Overall, this was a lot better than Skate Canada,” Duhamel said, “and it’s going to be better at the Grand Prix Final, and it will be better at the Olympics.”
Duhamel and Radford scored 75.37, beating China’s Yu Xiaoyu and Zhang Hao at 73.67. Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot were third at 72.55 despite Massot’s fall on a triple salchow.
Massot was competing for the first time since passing his German citizenship test. The French-born skater got the news Thursday, clearing the way for him to compete at Pyeongchang. He was held out of the Sochi Games because his partner failed to gain French citizenship in time.
“It’s really different,” Massot told The Associated Press, “because I don’t have this now anymore in my head, this question like, ‘I will be blocked again, or not?'”
Massot fell on his jump and the pair struggled with a spin Friday, too.
“The pressure was here,” Massot said. “I was really concentrating, but I would say that just today my legs … difficult to be flexible on the ice.”
Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim are the top pairs among the Americans, ranking fifth with 64.27 points despite a fall by Scimeca Knierim on her jump.
Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier of the U.S. thought they’d improved dramatically with their program, yet they rank sixth at 63.04. Denney pumped her arms and yelled “yes!” when they finished. When their score was announced, she said “OK” and pursed her lips.
“We were really proud of that performance,” Frazier said.
Americans Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay are eighth out of eight teams with 57.18 points.
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