Ice Network

Little Chen Choo Choos way to junior men's romp

Moeller storms into second with strong free; Ma brings home bronze
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Nathan Chen won his second U.S. junior title in three years, lapping the field by more than 32 points. -Jay Adeff

Nathan Chen darted out onto the rink to assure he was first on the ice during the warm-up for the junior men's competition at the 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

And he made sure he finished first, too.

Chen, who held a commanding 16.15-point advantage after the short program, won the junior men's title with a record total of 223.93 points, bettering the 213.76 points Adam Rippon scored in 2008.  

Chen now can sit back and watch Rippon, his training mate in Southern California, who will be competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in the men's event at these U.S. championships in Boston. Chen trains with coach Rafael Arutunian, who is a busy man in Boston, with Rippon and two-time champion Ashley Wagner competing in the women's event.

"I felt pretty good," said Chen, who also won the junior title in 2012 and finished third in 2013. "Overall, I thought I had a good time."

Chen stands at just 4-foot-11 but packs quite a punch. He performed a flawless short program, complete with a triple Axel, but in the free skate he was slow on the entry into his opening triple Axel and fell. He didn't let the mistake mar the rest of the routine, however, and landed his next element, a triple Axel-double toe loop, and his next six triples to win the junior crown.

His routine, performed to "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and selections from George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, also featured Level 4 marks for step sequences and high-quality spins.

Jordan Moeller recovered from a sixth-place showing in the short program to finish second in the free skate with 191.66 points and the silver medal. Jimmy Ma, who battled blade problems leading up to these nationals, finished with 182.73 points in third place. 

Moeller's program did not feature a triple Axel, but he nailed a triple Lutz-triple toe to open his routine. He said in the past he has struggled in the short program and then "crumbled" in the free skate but said he has worked with a sports psychologist to help him rebound if need be.

Ma, who trains with Elaine Zayak, was training a quad toe loop in practice and wound up cracking his blade in December.

All three men could potentially compete at the world junior championships, set for March 10-16 in Sofia, Bulgaria. The world junior team will be named Sunday, the same time U.S. Figure Skating names its Olympic team for the upcoming Winter Games in Sochi.

"It would be a huge honor to go to junior worlds and represent the United States," Chen said.

"Going to junior worlds is one of my biggest goals of the season," Moeller added.

Zayak said if Ma is invited to junior worlds, he will attempt the quad toe in the free skate.

"He's got to do it," Zayak said.

If Chen goes to junior worlds, it likely will be his last competition at the junior level. He said he plans to move up to the senior level next season.