Injuries plague top figure skaters at Skate America

By Emily Pacenti
Nathan Chen of Team USA performs during the Grand Prix Rostelecom Cup in Moscow on October 21. File Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE
Nathan Chen of Team USA performs during the Grand Prix Rostelecom Cup in Moscow on October 21. File Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE

Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Some of the top men competing at Skate America this weekend in Lake Placid, N.Y., suffered injuries and equipment failures, but many still made it to the finals of the Grand Prix Series.

Nathan Chen of Team USA took the gold medal despite two falls during Saturday evening's free skate program. The Four Continents Champion went down once on a quadruple flip and once on a quadruple toe loop. Chen wasn't seriously injured.


The falls were likely related to equipment errors Chen began to experience before Friday's short program. During the 6-minute warmup, Chen approached his coach with a nick on the outside edge of one skate. They were able to hastily sharpen the nick away for the most part and Chen received a personal best score on that day's short program. He made the choice to replace the blade entirely for Saturday's free skate, which may have lead to the falls.


"I think that was a bad call," Chen told Ice Network of the replaced blade. "It was a little too sharp on the inside edge, and every time I pressed into it for a sal[chow], toe and even flip, it would catch into the ice way harder than I was used to."

The two falls led to further mistakes, including a popped single axel. After missing the quad flip, "it took me a little bit to recalculate, and I didn't recalculate properly, so the rest of the program went downhill from there," Chen said. "It was good experience, good things to learn from."

Meanwhile, Chen's teammate, Adam Rippon, had a bizarre delayed start to his program when the referee directed him to clean several dead bugs off the ice before beginning. The commentator joked, "We have some great sweepers, ladies and gentleman" as Rippon cleaned the ice before his program. "Let me know if you have a bug problem, now I'm really good at cleaning them up," Rippon said after the free skate.

Rippon seemed to start his performance with confidence until his choreography, portraying a bird with a broken wing, took a turn for the literal. A hard fall on a quadruple lutz dislocated Rippon's right shoulder. The skater appeared to pop the shoulder back into place after standing and continued on to complete a first place program that earned him silver overall.


"I got off the ice and saw" U.S. Figure Skating President Samuel Auxier, Rippon said. "And I said, 'You know what, you could throw rocks at me, you could blow the whistle at me, there could be a bunch of bugs on the ice that I need to clean up before, but I'm going to do everything I can to skate my best and nothing's going to stop me from going where I need to go.'"

The final result was enough to send him to the Grand Prix Finals alongside Chen.

In a more dramatic turn of events, Israel's Daniel Samohin also dislocated his shoulder after a hard fall on a quadruple jump. His second fall in a row, the skater held his injury in pain and signaled his coach that he was unable to continue. Samohin had to leave the ice and did not place in the free skate.

A favorite for the upcoming Grand Prix Finals, Boyang Jin of China, skated on two sprained ankles. He removed his hardest quadruple jump from his program and struggled on a few landings, but thanks to his silver medal at the Cup of China, his fourth-place finish was enough to send him to the finals.


"I was overall satisfied with my performance, regardless of the mistakes," Jin told Ice Network through his interpreter. "I was pretty much off of the ice after Cup of China, getting therapy and treatment from the Chinese national team [for the ankles], and I will continue to do so after Skate America."

The women's competition wasn't immune to injury either, as American Ashley Wagner withdrew halfway through her free skate performance late Sunday due to an ankle infection.

Fans joked online the skaters were on "cursed ice."

The Grand Prix Finals begin Dec 10 in Nagoya, Japan.

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