Chen reels in gold, towers over junior men's field

12-year-old tops podium for third straight year at U.S. Championships

Preteen Nathan Chen overcame a slim deficit to climb from second to first place in San Jose.
Preteen Nathan Chen overcame a slim deficit to climb from second to first place in San Jose. (Tom Briglia)


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By Josh Ellis, special to
(01/25/2012) - For the third straight year, Nathan Chen is a U.S. champion, but this time he had to come from behind to reach the top of the podium at the 2012 U.S. Championships.

Chen, the two-time reigning novice champion, was in second after the short program; he trailed Timothy Dolensky by 0.05 points, but skated his way to the junior crown in his first year at the level.

"I had to have the skate of my life," Chen said. "I wanted to go out there and show everything I had. I had the time of my life; it was really great."

Chen, only 12 years old, was in second place after his Wall-E short program earned him 63.15 points. Then he posted a score of 130.75 points in his free skate, which he performed to music from The Godfather.

Chen began his skate with a triple Lutz-triple toe, which earned him 11.10 points, the top scoring element in the competition. He completed his skate with five more triple jumps, and each of his elements received a positive grade of execution.

"I felt like I needed to get to first place," Chen said. "I am planning on moving to Lake Arrowhead and thought that boost would help make the move easier."

Dolensky, who earned the junior men's silver medal, took great pride in his finish after a fifth-place result in the Eastern Sectional saw him miss out on an opportunity to skate in Greensboro, N.C., last year.

"I'm so proud of myself," Dolensky said. "I have been waiting a whole year for this, and I was just so happy that I made it here and I was able to do my best."

Dolensky, who took the lead in the short program skating to music he composed, earned 124.64 points in his Gipsy Kings free skate for a total score of 187.84 points. His performance included seven triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-double toe-double loop that earned him 9.56 points.

Despite finishing fifth in the short program, Philip Warren, who calls California home, earned the second-best total in the free skate to earn the bronze medal. Warren posted a score of 57.42 points in his short program, but skated to a score of 124.64 points in his "Ragtime" free skate.

"It was a lot of fun, and I had been doing good programs in practice," Warren said. "It was great to skate so close to home, so I could just drive up here and chill."

Harrison Choate jumped up six places from 10th after the short program to finish fourth.