Ice Network

Driven Naumov perseveres to win first U.S. crown

Gold medalist overcomes shaky opening combo to win title by double digits
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With a scintillating performance Tuesday, Maxim Naumov captured the gold medal in dominating fashion. The third-place finisher in this event last season, Naumov recorded 122.03 points for his "Spanish Flame" free skate, and he took the title with an overall mark of 177.85. -Jay Adeff

"I'm speechless. I don't really know what to say. I can't believe it."

When Maxim Naumov looked at his free skate protocols, his excitement was obvious. Although five skaters remained in the novice men's free skate at the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, he had amassed enough points -- 177.85 to be exact -- to ensure he had done his job: win his first U.S. title.

Bringing a 3.78-point lead into Tuesday's free skate, Naumov persevered through a shaky opening triple lutz-double toe combination to execute an otherwise clean performance, netting 122.03 points for his "Spanish Flame" program.

"Before I even skated today, I woke up and I thought, 'This is it. Today is going to be the day,'" Naumov said. "I knew what I had to do, and I had my mind made up. When something happens, you have to leave it behind you because you can't change it. After the lutz combination, that's what I did. I just kept going and did what I had to do."

In all, Naumov completed seven triple jumps, four of which were in combination or part of a series, to win the title by more than 11 points.

Joseph Kang and Dinh Tran also maintained their placements after the short program, rounding out the top three with 166.59 and 149.41 points, respectively. Kang, the 2016 U.S. intermediate champion, fought for every element in his Carmina Burana free skate, ending up with a segment score of 114.55 and the silver medal.

"I stumbled on the landing of the triple toe and put a hand down on the triple sal, so the double toe after that didn't go too well. The toes got me going all over," Kang said. "But I think I did well, especially for moving up a level, and it feels good knowing I can still walk away a silver medalist, even with a skate as imperfect as this."

Tran struggled in his Jesus Christ Superstar routine, popping his opening lutz to a single and falling on a triple flip to place sixth in the segment. But a strong short program and the third-highest program components score of the free skate (44.56) kept him solidly in third place over pewter medalist Joonsoo Kim.

"I think I was too nervous going into that first lutz," Tran said. "But I've been working a lot on being able to recover, and I'm much better at fighting for the rest of the program than I was last season. I reminded myself that what's done is done and there's nothing to do but move forward to what I knew I could do. I believed in myself."

Kim pulled up from a fifth-best short program to finish fourth overall with 147.95 points.