Kovtun leads, but Chen makes history at Finlandia

Nathan Chen appears to be back to full strength after attempting two quads in the short at Finlandia. -Getty Images

Posted by Jyrki Pirkkalainen, special to icenetwork

Nathan Chen made history at Finlandia Trophy on Saturday, becoming the first skater to attempt a quad lutz and a quad flip in a short program. The U.S. bronze medalist nailed his quad lutz-triple toe combination but fell on the flip.

The accomplishment is even more impressive considering that this was the wunderkind’s first senior international and he was off the ice for almost six months after injuring his hip in January.

“It didn’t seem like that long,” Chen said of the time he spent recovering from surgery. “When I got back on the ice, the first two days were probably a bit wobbly, but after that I got my confidence back and everything was still there. Luckily, I’m still young. I had done it so many times that my body knows how to do it.”

He also lauded his support team for always being there for him.

“They assured me that I would be able to come back with no issues, and that happened,” the 17-year-old said.

In Espoo this week, Chen is with Marina Zoueva, but his main coach at home in California is Rafael Arutunian.

“I have been training with Marina a little bit,” Chen said. “She did my choreography for this season, and that’s what I feel I need a little bit of a boost on, so I’ve been spending some time with her.”

Chen’s personal-best score of 87.50 put him in second behind Russian Maxim Kovtun (88.26) and ahead of Canadian Patrick Chan (84.59), both of whom stumbled on their quad toes.

Kovtun skated an otherwise strong program to “Bahamut” that included an effortless quad salchow-triple toe combination and a triple axel.

The three-time Russian champion switched coaches in May and is now training with Inna Goncharenko. He saidhe has been working a lot on spins and footwork since the change

“I’m not completely satisfied with my program, but my coach was pleased. It was OK considering it was the first competition of the season,” Kovtun said. “I’m glad that I did the jumps, but I lost energy on the quad toe. Hopefully, next time it will be better.”

Chan erred on his first two jumps and didn’t do a combination, but the rest of the program was a joy to watch. The music he used, The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” and “Blackbird,” were pieces he had previously used for an exhibition.

“It has evolved into a program that I really enjoy,” Chan said. “I liked it as an exhibition. I wasn’t sure how it would be as a competitive program, but it really works well, and the jumps sat really well.”

Chan said that switching to Zoueva and her team has provided him with a huge motivation boost.

“Marina was always very supportive, whether she was my coach or not, and I felt the support could help my skating a lot,” Chan said. “She has a team of coaches as well. There are always areas — not only technically — that I need help in, and Marina and Oleg [Epstein] and Johnny [Johns] are really helpful when it comes to the skating and the jumps and putting it together, and just improving everything.

“Everything that skating is about and being a competitor in skating is a lot more enjoyable for me now,” Chan continued. “I don’t why, but I just leave my home feeling motivated and excited, which is a feeling I haven’t had in a long time, and I have been competing for so many years.”

Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada sits in fourth with 80.20 points. He was supposed to have a new short program to The Last Airbender, but he decided to go back to last year’s music.

Jorik Hendrickx of Belgium skated a clean and beautiful, but quad-less, program and landed in fifth, ahead of Israel’s Alexei Bychenko.


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