Ice Network

Pulkinen starving for gold medal after winning short

Tran close behind in junior men's standings; Naumov pulls into third place
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Pre-event favorite Camden Pulkinen flubbed his combination during his "Fix You" short, but the Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalist still sits atop the leaderboard with a segment score of 67.88. -Jay Adeff

After capturing the junior men's silver medal at last season's U.S. championships, and the same honor this year at the Junior Grand Prix Final, Camden Pulkinen arrived in San Jose with one thing on his mind: winning a gold medal. Thanks to earning the top score in the short program Monday at the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, California, the 17-year-old is halfway there.

"You know when you haven't eaten for a few days, then you see an In-N-Out Burger? That's how hungry I am. That's how bad I want this title," Pulkinen said.

While his 67.88 points proved enough for the top mark in the segment, Pulkinen didn't exactly deliver the kind of performance of his "Fix You" program he was looking for. After opening with a solid triple axel -- one that notched all positive Grades of Execution -- his planned triple flip combination ended with a single toe loop and a fall, and his ensuing combination spin received negative GOEs across the board.

"Of course, it's not what I wanted to do today," Pulkinen said. "I think I was just too hyped up after the axel and the combo got away from me. I definitely know what I need to do moving forward."

Dinh Tran, who won a bronze medal in novice at this event a year ago, finished less than a point behind Pulkinen. He landed a triple flip-triple toe, triple axel and triple lutz on his way to garnering 67.28 points.

"I focused really hard on training my programs and the triple axel," Tran said. "I just ran programs again and again to train my endurance. The more you do it, the more consistent your jumps get. Then when you get to competition, you just do it again."

Tran, who trains in nearby San Francisco, had the support of the crowd throughout his performance, which was set to "Exogenesis: Symphony Part I" by Muse. His program featured two Level 4 spins and the highest technical elements score of the day (37.00).

"I loved having the crowd with me," he said. "It was really fun to hear their support, but at the end of the day, I was focused on my skating and my performance."

Even though his charismatic "Luck Be A Lady" program began with a fall on his triple axel, reigning U.S. novice champion Maxim Naumov finished third in the segment with 64.07 points. Despite the hiccup, Naumov earned Level 3 and 4 grading on each spin and step sequence to keep himself in podium position heading into Wednesday's free skate.

Tony Lu, who finished sixth in 2016, sits fourth with 62.43 points.