Chen takes lead after intermediate men's short

Savary, Blair sit 2-3 heading into Saturday's free skate

Nathan Chen, seen here warming up backstage on Wednesday, dominated his competition.
Nathan Chen, seen here warming up backstage on Wednesday, dominated his competition. (Becca Staed)


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By Becca Staed, special to
(12/13/2008) - Though it does not show in stature, 9-year-old Nathan Chen (Salt Lake Figure Skating) was heads above his intermediate men's competition on Friday at the 2009 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships. With lofty jumps and excellent footwork, the very petite skater from Utah earned 35.86 points for his "Nutcracker" short program.

He got the idea for the music after being in the ballet a year ago with Ballet West, a company in Salt Lake City.

"Because I'd been in the ballet, I knew the music pretty well," said Chen. "I take ballet because it helps me with my form as a skater."

He displayed superb form in the short program segment of the competition and charmed the audience, receiving nary a negative mark from any of the judges. He landed four double jumps and performed two Level 4 spins. His straight-line step sequence was graded a Level 3, and he earned the highest program components marks, with 14.46.

"I am happy that I did a clean program," Chen said. "I felt pretty confident before I skated, and I wasn't really thinking about much beforehand, except for what I needed to do."

No matter the outcome of tomorrow, he said, "I just want to skate my best."

Emmanuel Savary (University of Delaware FSC) also pulled out a show-stopping performance. His program was to the Super Mario Brothers theme song.

"I like the game, and I like listening to music while I play, so one day I thought, 'Hey, that sounds cool.' I wanted to skate to it, so then I downloaded it on the computer," said the 10-year-old Savary.

He began skating after watching his older brother Joel, 21, on the ice. His coach, Ron Ludington (who formerly coached 2007 U.S. ladies champion Kimmie Meissner), cannot say enough about his star pupil's determined spirit.

"I liked what he was about," said Ludington. "He has great work habits. He is first in his class and class president."

Savary had an almost 10-minute delay when it came his turn to skate as he waited for someone to clear the ice of debris, but that didn't faze the young skater. He nailed four double jumps with ease and delivered an entertaining program.

"I just wanted to come and skate my best and make my hard work pay off," he said. "I see all these good skaters on TV, like Evan Lysacek and Evgeni Plushenko, and I want to be just like them."

In third was Taylor Blair (Shattuck-St Mary's) with a short program score of 32.33. He had the second-highest program component marks, with 14.33, and landed three double jumps. Both his flying sit and change-of-foot combo spins received a Level 3.

Lukas Kaugars (Broadmoor SC) of Colorado Springs, Colo., finished fourth with 31.85 points. His spin and step sequence levels could not match that of his opponents, but he did not receive a single negative Grade of Execution.