Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Many of America's top figure skaters -- led by a gold-medal performance from Nathan Chen -- are off to a strong season with podium finishes at Skate America.
The first event of the 2019-20 Grand Prix of Figure Skating ended Sunday in Las Vegas with 20-year-old Chen scoring his third consecutive victory at Skate America. Chen is the second man ever to win the event three years in a row. He also won by the largest margin of victory in the history of the event, leading silver medalist Jason Brown of the United States by an astounding 44 points.
Chen performed a much anticipated free skate set to a mix of songs from the Rocketman movie soundtrack, wearing a tie-dye costume made by his mother. The program is a departure from many of Chen's previous routines that lacked distinct dance elements -- particularly the Elton John hip-hop dance break.
Runner-up to Chen was American fan favorite Brown. Known for his flexibility and artistry, Brown, 24, often fails to make the podium due to his lack of quadruple jumps. Winning silver at Skate America gives Brown a chance at qualifying for the coveted Grand Prix Final in December if he can perform similarly at his next assignment in the series.
Bronze was awarded to Dmitri Aliev of Russia.
Fourth-place finisher Keegan Messing of Canada performed an emotional tribute to his younger brother, Paxton, who died last month in a motorcycle accident.
Frequent Grand Prix finalist Jin Boyang of China ended in a surprising sixth place and rising fan favorite Cha Junhwan of South Korea came in eighth.
In the ladies event, Team USA's Bradie Tennell finished with a silver medal, just behind Russian star Anna Shcherbakova, who landed two quadruple lutz jumps in the free skate. Quadruple jumps in the ladies field have only begun to appear more frequently in the last two seasons.
Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva took home the bronze after landing two clean triple axels in the free skate.
Japanese skater Kaori Sakomoto landed in fourth place; she took silver at the event last year. She will need to place high at her next event to qualify again for the Grand Prix Final.
Wakaba Higuchi, another popular skater from Japan, also finished off the podium, in sixth place. Higuchi is known for her artistic programs, particularly her Olympic routine set to Adele's Skyfall.
Missing from competition was Team USA rising star Alysa Liu. The reigning U.S. national champion -- with a confident triple axel under her belt -- at age 14 is too young to compete in senior events such as Skate America.
As expected, American dance duo Madison Hubbel and Zachary Donohue took home the gold in the ice dance event, nudging out the Russian team of Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin. The Americans are likely to have a secure place in the Grand Prix Final, where everyone will be fighting to dethrone French superstars Gabriella Papadakis and Guillame Cizeron.
Fans were certainly missing the Olympic bronze medalist team, Alex and Maia Shibutani, a sibling duo who are taking this season off to continue decompressing after the 2018 Olympics.
Bronze went to the Canadian dance duo Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen.
There's plenty of room for rising stars in the pairs event, with many major retirements after the 2018 Olympics. Gold was awarded to Peng Cheng and Jin Yang of China, followed by Russians Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin.
Another medal for team USA, pairs bronze went to Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, who came onto the Grand Prix circuit in 2017.
The Grand Prix series continues Friday with Skate Canada in Kelowna, British Columbia.