At the same time as the European Championships, Espoo hosts the U.S. Championships, and this year the tournament is hosted by California. The last time San Jose hosted a national qualifier was five years ago, when the 2018 Pyeongchang Games were played. Like the first half of the season, the men’s tournament is being skipped by Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, who are focused on their university studies.
The leader after the first day was expectedly Ilia Malinin. He often made mistakes in the short skating and had to rehabilitate himself in the free skating. By the time of the championship Malinin had recovered from the leg injury that had been bothering him in the fall, and he recovered the quadruple Lutz. Ilya worked with She-Lynn Boerne on choreography and began to feel more confident. As a result, a brilliant roll with two quads (lutz and toe loop) and the Grandmaster result of 110.36 points (Chen’s world record – 113.97). Although the new suit for the short looks controversial – judge for yourself how well it fits the blues.
Yevgenia Medvedeva’s buddy Jason Brown decided to take a break after a tough Olympic season. The skater has been participating in various shows and resting, so the U.S. Championships is Brown’s first full tournament. The 28-year-old figure skater decided to return to his old short program, Melancholia. It was staged in 2020, but Jason has not shown this production in official competitions.
The competitive debut turned out gorgeous – the soft lyric suits Brown insanely well. He’s the only one who can present a routine in such a way that you really forget to breathe. And his skating skills look even better in contrast to Malinin’s performance. Not surprisingly, Jason received a standing ovation. Almost maximum components allowed the American to take a confident second place – 100,25 points.
Tomoki Hiwatashi rounded out the intermediate three. After winning two medals in the US he was desperately unlucky at the nationals. In 2020, Hiwatashi fell to seventh place due to poor readiness, and a year ago he did not participate in the tournament because he tested positive for COVID.
This time, Tomoki is ready to fight for a trip to the World Championship. He had originally planned on two quadruplets in the short. However, after a good quad-touloupe, he hesitated using a cascade and then risked a second quadruple jump, limiting himself to two triplets. His insistence on stability proved to be successful, as Hiwatashi earned 85.43 points.
Kamden Pulkinen, on the other hand, was disappointing. A year ago he finished his season with a great performance at the World Championships, finishing in fifth place on his first try. In San Jose he had little success. First Pulkinen fell off a quadruple toeloop, then a triple axel.
In the second half, Camden failed to land a triple lutz and hooked only a double toe instead of the planned triple toe. It turned out the American was too nervous. Stepping onto the ice, he could barely feel his legs from the excitement. Pulkinen scored only 69.47 points in the short program and moved into 11th place.
In post-race interviews, Brown is cryptic about his future. However, the American federation should keep Jason at least until the World Championships. If there is any confidence in Malinin’s results, the other athletes are not at all predictable. If Pulkinen’s mistakes are that bad, he might not even make it into the free skating program. Then it would be very difficult to hold the maximum three quotas.