Ice Network

Placid pieces: Chen needs new duds, not quads

U.S. champion close to selecting new costumes; Rippon remains focused
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As he continues to prepare for the Olympic Winter Games, Nathan Chen said this week that he'll have new costumes coming soon. -Getty Images

Nathan Chen's short program, set to "Nemesis" by Benjamin Clementine, has almost everything: Unique and passionate movements, courtesy of choreographer Shae-Lynn Bourne. Three jumping passes -- including a quadruple lutz and flip -- with a base value of more than 40 points are also part of his arsenal.

Now, all he needs is something to wear.

"I would just like to say, I don't have new costumes yet," Chen said after his first official Skate America practice in Lake Placid on Thursday. "They will still be the same costumes as in Russia (at Rostelecom Cup). New costumes will be coming. They've been held up with a lot of other things going on."

"With the quads or choreography, it's really between you and another person," he added. "With costumes, so many people are a part of that team, everyone has to coordinate and that lags some time."

The plain black shirt and pants Chen is wearing for his short program, and the blue shirt and black pants he's sporting for his free skate, should not make a whiff of difference here, although more eye-catching garb might help at the Grand Prix Final in Nagoya, Japan, next month, and certainly at the PyeongChang Winter Games come February. For now, though, everything is steady-as-she-goes in the Chen camp.

"(At Skate America), I'm just trying to do what I did in Russia with my programs, but to be more consistent," he said. "The quad loop is out for right now. Five quads (in the free skate) itself is risky enough. Adding another one that is not fine-tuned adds more risk and more mental stress, which I don't need right now."

That doesn't mean Chen is shying away from difficulty. His free skate run-through on Thursday, to music from Mao's Last Dancer, included two quad lutzes, and he's training a new combination.

"I've been playing around with (quad) toe-half loop-triple sal(chow)," he said. "The first one I did (in practice) did not go all right but hopefully I can do it here. I just want to step it up for myself, and I think adding tons of more quads to the program might not be smartest choice, so this is the next step for me."

A trip to the Grand Prix Final seems a sure bet for Chen, who won gold at Rostelecom Cup last month. There's also little doubt the 18-year-old will secure one of the three U.S. men's spots on the PyeongChang Olympic squad. The goal is to maintain his technique, continue growing his programs and stay healthy. An avulsion injury to his left hip, suffered during a gala exhibition following the 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, led to surgery and many weeks of rehab.

"Over the past two years I have (developed) a routine to stay healthy, thanks to U.S. Figure Skating and the U.S. Olympic Committee allowing me the opportunity to work with a great strength and conditioning coach at the USOC in Colorado Springs (Brandon Siakel), and also at the Chula Vista USOC in California," Chen said.

The routine includes managing the number of quads he tries on a daily basis, depending on how his body feels.

"It's a good thing I've learned from competition and practice experience roughly how many jumps I can do a day, without hurting myself," Chen said. "It varies from about ten, to 30 (quads) per day. It's a fair number."

Rippon is thinner, wiser and ready for PyeongChang

Adam Rippon reeled off a few clean quad lutzes in practice on Thursday, and then followed up with a few zingers in the mixed zone.

The skater, who turned 28 earlier this month, has never received full value for a quad lutz in competition and would dearly love to land a great one at Skate America.

"I feel like many years ago I was setting a trend (trying quad lutz), and I was like, 'Oh, no one will do this,'" Rippon said. "Now I go to competition and everybody and their mother and their child can do a quad lutz, and I'm over here eight years later busting my chops."

Regardless, the skater is off to a fine start this season with a bronze medal at the Finlandia Trophy followed by a silver medal at the NHK Trophy earlier this month. Since then, he's focused on polishing the details in his programs: a short to a medley including a remix of Danish soul singer Ida Corr's "Let Me Think About it" and free to "Arrival of the Birds" and Coldplay's "O."

"I went back and watched my videos and wanted to clean up the little steps I felt were sloppy," Rippon said. "I took feedback from the judges and wanted to make sure the exits of the spins were a little stronger. Keep my stamina up, keep my strength up, continue doing stability work off-ice so my head can be clear going into this event and I can take the training I've been doing and just maintain that."

"I feel strong and confident with my skating," he added. "My only goal is to be solid here."

While Chen -- Rippon's rink mate in Lakewood, California -- may train up to 30 quads per day, that's not the case for the veteran skater.

"Having broken my foot in January, I'm careful how many toe jumps I do with my left foot," Rippon said. "It's forced me to buckle down and work on the technique of the quad lutz. When you go into a training session, you might see Nathan do five quad lutzes, and won't see me do any, but that's what works for me. I got my triples at (age) 17 or 18, and that's how old Nathan is now. As someone my age in my career, I have to play a different game and be smart about it."

Any color Skate America medal will qualify Rippon for the Grand Prix Final for the second straight season. A fourth-place finish may do the trick, depending on how high he scores. That's especially important this season, because U.S. Figure Skating is basing its selection of the PyeongChang Olympic team on three criteria: performance at 2017 World Figure Skating Championships, qualification for the 2017-18 Grand Prix Final and placement at the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

"Over the past four years, I think I have the pedigree to go to the Olympic Games," Rippon said. "I've been to the world championships and (placed) eighth (in 2015), and the next year I was sixth. I won the U.S. title (in 2016). I am one of two U.S. male skaters who qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the last four years. I medaled at my two Grand Prix events last season and my first Grand Prix this year."

"I saw the criteria and saw it pertained to nationals and worlds, but the only reason I wasn't at nationals was I broke my foot," he added. "I'm here to show I'm stronger, I'm wiser, I'm thinner and I'm ready."