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Masterful Chen vaults to second place in Marseille

American takes silver in Grand Prix Final debut; Hanyu wins another gold
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Nathan Chen displayed the strongest free skate of his career, accruing a new personal-best score of 197.55, which greatly surpassed his previous mark of 180.97. With an overall total of 282.85 points -- and the top free skate score -- Chen moved up from fifth after the short program to earn a silver medal in his Grand Prix Final debut. -Getty Images

The 2016 Grand Prix Final marked quite a turnaround in the hierarchy of the sport, as Japan's superstar Yuzuru Hanyu maintained his supremacy, though his performance was far from his best. While Hanyu was solid, the two best free skates belonged to two young men who are on the cusp of taking figure skating by storm.

American Nathan Chen delivered a historic performance to take the silver medal, and Japanese prodigy Shoma Uno took the bronze, with both skaters leaving the crowd in Marseille in a frenzy following each performance.

Hanyu's total score was 293.90 points, while Chen amassed 282.85 points and Uno secured 282.51 to land a mere 0.34 points behind the American skater. What those scores don't reflect, however, is the wide spread of scores that came from the free skate: Chen racked up 197.55 points, Uno amassed 189.75, and Hanyu, 187.37 points, which was a whopping 10.18 points behind Chen's score. Spain's Javier Fernández registered 177.01 points for his free skate and finished out of medal contention.

Hanyu, the three-time defending champion, was ready to set yet another record, but it was not meant to be on this night, despite his winning another Grand Prix Final crown. Skating to Joe Hisaishi's "Hope and Legacy," Hanyu managed to hold onto his opening quad loop and landed a perfect quad salchow, but fell on his second quad salchow, and two-footed the landing of his quad toe. He did nail a splendid triple axel-triple toe, but couldn't complete his planned triple axel-triple salchow combination, and singled the last jump of his program, a triple lutz.

"The result is there," Hanyu said. "I had a good short program and I'm quite happy with the result. I was happy with both programs, as I could feel connected to the audience and I was able to smile in these programs. Of course, I felt challenged in my free program, but I'm not worried. I will be good next year."

Taking the ice one slot ahead of Hanyu, Chen delivered all he had planned, recording the best performance of his young senior career. His opening quad lutz-triple toe combination added 19.90 points to his tally, and he followed with a solid quad flip and a quad toe-double toe and another quad toe. Unlike in the Grand Prix de Paris, Chen didn't lose his stamina and was able to land his triple axel and triple flip-triple toe combination, as Borodine's "Polovtsian Dances" unfolded.

Chen was simply stellar, and his scores proved that the mastery of quads could create a champion overnight. His element score, 113.13 points, surpassed Hanyu's by 17.12 points, but his component scores were 8.94 points lower than those of the reigning Olympic champion.

"It's a huge honor to medal at my first Grand Prix Final," a more than pleased Chen said. "I wasn't expecting that at all. It's kind of a shock for me at the moment. I'm really happy with my skate and I'm glad to do the clean long program I've been waiting to do all season. To do that at the Final is a big step for me. I'm still disappointed about the short program but I'm glad I was able to redeem myself. I hit both a quad lutz and flip, which is huge for me as well, so I'm happy with the way things went."

Uno opened his performance in top form and instantaneously set the bar high for his competition. The talented Japanese skater more than redeemed himself following a rough short program, nailing his quad flip, quad toe and triple axel, along with another quad toe-double toe combination. His triple axel-triple flip combination, which is a rare element, was quite spectacular. He garnered 17.59 points for that element, including 1.86 GOE points.

"I'm pretty happy, but I have learned from my short program and my mistakes tonight that I have some homework to do," he said.

Skating to Astor Piazzolla's "Buenos Aires Hora Cero," Uno allowed himself to create a few special effects, like when he landed his triple axel to a to a sharp violin string.

"To be honest, I don't know what training would be the best to polish my style," Uno continued. "But I do have the image of movements I'd like to achieve and I have emotions inside of me which I want to express on the ice."

Fernández tripled his intended opening quad toe, and never really recovered. The landing of his quad salchow forced him to double the toe loop of his combination, though his triple axel was clean. A second quad salchow was deemed under-rotated, and the Spaniard fell on his second triple axel. Needless to say, this was an off-night for Fernández and it happened at the worst moment of the Final: when his younger competitors put together the programs of their lives.

Canada's Patrick Chan also had a rough outing. Skating to Eric Radford's "A Journey," Chan fell on his opening quad toe and on the ensuing triple axel. His quad salchow, however, was stellar, and gave him a 1.71 GOE. He did fall on a second triple axel, which was penalized for being repeated as a single element.

Although marred with errors and falls, Chan's program remained full of energy, humanity, and depth, and he scored 166.99 points for his free program.

Adam Rippon had an off-night as well, and said he never really felt comfortable on the ice.

"Somehow I felt out of my own skin," the 27-year-old American noted. "This was my first Grand Prix Final and I didn't know what kind of feelings to expect. This is not the skate I wanted, but I am extremely grateful to have qualified for this Final. I now have five weeks before Nationals, and that's the time I need."

Rippon ended in sixth place with 233.10 points overall.