Ice Network

S-quad goals: Chen jumps back into history books

American teenager lands quad lutz, quad flip in short; Fernández leads
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Javier Fernández (right) got the better of Nathan Chen on Friday, but the latter made history by becoming the first skater to land a quad lutz and a quad flip in a short program. -Getty Images

For those who hadn't heard, the signal came across loud and clear in the men's short program at Trophée de France: The future has already arrived.

Of course, two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernández of Spain was up to his usual standard and won the event. But right behind him, a newcomer to the senior ranks, Team USA's Nathan Chen, delivered a brilliant performance including both a quad lutz and a quad flip -- the first time those two jumps had ever been landed in the same program in history.

Fernández amassed 96.57 points, while Chen also hit the 90-point bar in his Grand Prix debut, receiving a score of 92.85. Kazakhstan's Denis Ten will enter the free skate in third place, with 89.21 points. Team USA's Adam Rippon stands in fourth after a mistake-free program earned him 85.25 points.

Fernández opened the second group, something he doesn't like to do. He planned to start his "Malagueña" short with a quad toe-triple toe, but he fell rather heavily on the first jump. He gathered himself and followed with a well-controlled quad salchow-triple toe combination.

"This was the first time I had to think of adding a triple toe after the quad sal," Fernández explained. "I told myself, 'You really need to make it; otherwise, you won't have a combination and you'll end up at the bottom. You can't miss that one.'"

He did not. His subsequent triple axel also was stellar.

Fernández's four non-jump elements (three spins and one step sequence) were all rated Level 4.

"That's what we're working for," he offered afterward. "You never know how things turn out. You can always fall on a jump, so I have to be really consistent on spins and steps. On these elements you really need to be 100 percent present to hit the right level."

Chen opened with an incredible quad lutz-triple toe combination, which brought 19.47 points to his tally, the highest element score of the night. He followed with a quad flip worth 12.56 points that also seemed incredibly natural. His only mistake came later, when he doubled his planned triple axel. Two of his spins were rated Level 4, while the third one gained a Level 3, just like his step sequence.

"I'm really happy with what I did, especially with the two first big jumps. It's the first time I landed both, so this is a good milestone," Chen said.

In addition to his big "premiere," Chen appeared with a renewed bodyline throughout his routine to Adolphe Adam's Le Corsaire.

"When he came to me, I saw right away his posture and his beautiful bodylines. You know, he has trained at the Salt Lake City Ballet! And the fact that he lands such difficult jumps shows how well coordinated he is," his coach, Marina Zoueva, explained. "He has a grace in his attitudes and movements...I think you may say that of a man, can't you?

"My goal is always to bring out the best of my pupils, and that's what I'm doing with him," she continued. "He actually came to me for that reason: to find his style, improve his skating skills and performance level, be more mature."

"Tomorrow will be a big challenge," Chen said. "Depending on how the practice session goes, I will try all four different quads in my free program."

Ten withdrew from Skate America but came to Paris and started his program with fierce determination, landing his quad toe loop and his triple lutz-triple toe combination. His step sequence was incredible and energetic -- it was rated Level 4, as were two of his spins. He got the second best program components score of the field (41.81 points).

Ten has kept his extraordinary presence on the ice. This time, technique didn't elude him.

"I was really looking forward to skating both at Skate America and here," he offered. "I couldn't skate in Chicago, but I'm really grateful that the Grand Prix was brought back to Paris. It's a huge pleasure and joy to perform here, one year after the tragedy that hit France and canceled the event last year." 

Rippon landed a triple flip-triple toe combination, a triple axel and his trademark "Rippon" triple lutz. His three spins were rated Level 4 and his step sequence a Level 3.

"I'm happy with my scores, and I'm happy with my levels, which are higher than at Skate America," Rippon offered. "My main goal this year is nationals and, hopefully, worlds. I want to show that I'm consistent and reliable. This could not have been a better way for me to start my 28th year." (Rippon turned 27 years old the day of the short program.)

Season after season, Rippon is transforming into a contemporary dance master. Skating with naked arms, which emphasized both his strength and bodylines, he launched full speed into a beautifully choreographed piece, completely consistent to Ida Corr and D.J. Fedde le Grand's "Let Me Think About It."

"I always want to do something different -- and fun," he said.

Well, he achieved his goal here!