Vincent Zhou makes Olympic figure-skating team after top competitors stumble

By Emily Pacenti
Nathan Chen, shown here during the Rostelecom Cup in October, will lead Team USA at next month's Olympic Games. File Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE
Nathan Chen, shown here during the Rostelecom Cup in October, will lead Team USA at next month's Olympic Games. File Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE

Jan. 7 (UPI) -- In one of the most nail-biting free-skate competitions of the season, Vincent Zhou rose all the way to the national podium while Olympic favorites Adam Rippon and Jason Brown fell to fourth and sixth place in the U.S. Figure Skating championships.

The final Olympic lineup for men's single figure skaters will be Nathan Chen, Rippon and Zhou. Brown was named first alternate for the team based on his body of work. Ross Miner, who finished second, was passed over, but named as an alternate as well.


The results after the free skate Saturday night in San Jose, Calif., were what most people predicted, with Chen holding a comfortable first-place lead right ahead of Rippon and Brown. Chen delivered again in the free skate, but Rippon and Brown stumbled their way through. The two seasoned competitors dropped in the rankings below Zhou and surprisingly, Miner.

At Sunday morning's press conference, U.S. Figure Skating President Sam Auxier addressed the controversial decision to pass over Miner despite a second-place finish at nationals.

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"Ross had an amazing lights-out performance," Auxier said. "However, we had to look at the body of work, and Ross does amazing at U.S. championships, but frankly he has struggled at some of the international competitions."

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Auxier also confirmed that the committee's decision to pass over Miner was 11 to 1.

Rippon, who was chosen over Miner, has had a strong season so far. He earned a spot in the coveted Grand Prix Final in December, although many top skaters were absent from the competition this year.

"I think this is maybe one of the most stressful competitions I've done in my entire life. I can almost say that with 100 percent confidence," Rippon, 28, said at the news conference.

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He went on to congratulate teammates Zhou, 17, and Chen, 18. "I'm honored to be their father," he joked about the two teenagers. "On those days where I'm like I am too old to be doing this, I look at Nathan and I see myself when I was 18."


The one no-brainer of the Team USA figure-skating selections, Chen showed an improvement in consistency. Landing five quadruple jumps in the free skate, Chen defended his national title by a wide margin.

"I didn't really think it would be attainable," he said of making this year's Olympic team. "I thought 2022 would be more in my sights. It's crazy how fast time flies and how things progress. I'm super blessed to have the opportunity to compete at these events."

The 2018 Winter Games begin Feb. 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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