Ice Network

Chen charges ahead with Michael Jackson short

Team USA's Weinberg, Fernandez take slim lead at JGP Colorado Springs
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Team USA's Nathan Chen moonwalked his way through his Michael Jackson short, earning a personal-best score of 77.13 (also believed to be the highest men's short program score ever recorded in the Junior Grand Prix Series). The five-time JGP medalist effortlessly landed all of his jumps -- triple axel, triple lutz-triple toe and triple flip -- to take a double-digit lead on the competition. -Daphne Backman

The Junior Grand Prix (JGP) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, got underway on Thursday with the men's and pairs short programs, as Team USA skaters took leads in both disciplines.


Nathan Chen's goal for the 2015-16 season is to stay healthy and competitive. If he carries momentum from Thursday's nearly perfect short program into the free skate, he will be off to a good start.

"My second year of JGP was pretty good," Chen said. "But the other years in between have been rough. I just want to have a clean, healthy season."

Chen, who has competed on the JGP circuit since 2012, earned 77.13 points, easily his personal-best short program score. (It also is believed to be the highest ever short recorded at a JGP.) His Michael Jackson short earned positive Grades of Execution (GOEs) on all seven of its technical elements, including both the triple lutz-triple toe combination and triple flip in the second half.

"It felt awesome," Chen said. "Finally, I'm feeling good, and I'm happy I was able to do that."

Taking a 12-point lead into the free skate, Chen trained at the adjoining World Arena Ice Hall for the last several weeks to prepare for competition at 6,200 feet above sea level.

"It definitely helps, but the altitude is still a struggle even though I've been here for a bit," Chen said.

Japan's Sota Yamamoto, the reigning JGP Final silver medalist and world junior bronze medalist, sits in second place after his 65.11-point short. His performance was highlighted by an excellent triple lutz-triple toe combination.

Team USA's Anthony Boucher, who lives and trains just outside of Denver in Westminster, Colorado, sits in third place with 62.32 points. Boucher's teammate, Tomoki Hiwatashi, is in sixth place with a score of 59.84.


Joy Weinberg and Maximiliano Fernandez made a sterling competitive debut, winning the pairs short program with 48.73 points. Based in Ellenton, Florida, the duo started skating together in May.

"Our tryout was the best thing I have ever felt in my life," Fernandez said. "I knew it was going to be a good partnership."

Weinberg credits Fernandez with helping achieve one of her lifelong dreams.

"I've always dreamed of just getting a Team USA jacket, and now he's helped me get here," she said. "To be in first place is amazing; I couldn't have imagined that."

Weinberg and Fernandez face tough competition heading into Saturday's free skate. Russia's Anastasia Gubanova and Alexei Sintsov, who placed fourth at the 2015 World Junior Championships, sit in second place, just 0.49 points behind the American duo.

South Korea's Ye Ri Kim and Alex Kang Chan Kam, who only began skating pairs four months ago, earned 46.46 points for their short to music from the Whiplash and Baccano! soundtracks. Based in Colorado Springs, the duo had a large crowd cheering them on that included U.S. pairs champions Alexa Scimeca, Chris Knierim and John Coughlin.

"This was our first big competition in our lives in pairs skating," Kam said. "We were a little nervous, but I think we trained well for it. It definitely helped having our friends here to support us. It gave us an extra boost of energy."

Team USA's Sarah Rose and Joseph Goodpaster sit in seventh with 43.65 points. Their teammates, Gabriella Marvaldi and Cody Dolkiewicz, rounded out the short program with an eighth-place score of 41.05.