Chen tackles 'Godfather,' with impressive results

Chen won both the short and free programs in junior debut

Nathan Chen overcame a hard fall to capture two wins at the Liberty Summer Competition.
Nathan Chen overcame a hard fall to capture two wins at the Liberty Summer Competition. (Paul Harvath)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(07/15/2011) - Two-time U.S. novice champion Nathan Chen made an impressive junior debut at the Liberty Summer Competition, winning both the short program and free skate competitions.

Rotating like a whirlwind, the diminutive 12-year-old reeled off six triples in his free skate to The Godfather, including an opening triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination.

The musical Chen added two snappy double Axels, though he fell hard on an intended triple loop-double toe-double loop combination. Still, both he and coach Genia Chernyshova were pleased with his 112.31 points. He earned 168.52 overall.

"I just finished choreographing the free last week and this is only about the fifth or sixth run-through," Chernyshova said. "A few changes need to be made. The ending choreography, the spin and steps are a little too tight with the music.

"By the time he got to the triple loop he was feeling a little tired and insecure. We knew that would be the case. It's in the second half, and the steps leading into it were not back crossovers. They were different."

Chen was partially inspired by Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece, calling the complex epic of an Italian-American crime family "easy to get into."

"I've seen Part One," the Salt Lake City youngster said. "I really enjoyed it, and I enjoy interpreting this music.

"Overall, today's performance was good. A few elements were not as good as they should be."

Chen, who next competes at Glacier Falls Summer Classic and Skate San Francisco, is thrilled to be tackling the junior level, where many competitors are four or five years older and far taller.

"It's a lot different than novice," he said. "It's more of a challenge. There are quite a few good skaters. It's a little more fun.

"My big goal is to put a triple Axel into my free, hopefully by sectionals."

Chen, whose birthday is in May, will be eligible for the 2012-2013 Junior Grand Prix.

Californian Jay Yostanto, who trains at the East West Ice Palace in Artesia, achieved a personal milestone by landing a triple Axel for the first time in competition, executing the jump in his free skate to Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.

The 17-year-old landed six other triples, however his two triple flips received "e" calls for incorrect outside edge takeoffs. He earned 101.13 points for second in the free and took second overall with 151.94.

Yostanto, who placed third in Wednesday's short program competition, felt relaxed at the start of his free.

"Yesterday I felt good; I was hyped up to do the triple Axel," he said. "Today I had some hip pain, so I thought, 'This could be terrible. I have nothing to lose.' I just let myself go and flowed into it."

Yostanto's coach, Derrick Delmore, hopes Liberty makes the start of a new chapter in his pupil's career.

"He has been battling injuries the last couple of years and he's grown a lot," Delmore said. "It was thrilling to put the Axel out there. We need to work a bit more on the program but for this early in the season I'm happy."

Atlanta-based Timothy Dolensky landed three clean triples in his free to a Latin medley to take third in the free. With his fourth-place finish in the short, he also took third overall.

Emmanuel Savary of Delaware attempted a quadruple Salchow but fell and had the jump downgraded by the technical panel. He recovered quickly with a triple flip-triple toe combination and ended in fourth place after the free.

The top 10 men are invited to compete in the junior men's final on Saturday.