The 2021-22 Grand Prix of Figure Skating series kicked off last Friday at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, and did not disappoint. American athletes came away with two medals in men's singles and two in ice dance; the latter competition was a nail-biter, while the former featured a stunning breakout performance.
Vincent Zhou's Big Win
American Vincent Zhou, 20, said that he was as well-prepared and trained as he possible could be for Skate America. The result? Zhou left with his first major senior title -- and it wasn't close. His short program and free skate scores combined for 295.56 points, about 25 points ahead of silver medalist Shoma Uno and bronze medalist Nathan Chen.
“My training this year has been by far the most consistent and productive training I have ever had,” Zhou said. “Being well prepared, training to perform under whatever circumstances, is really paying off. ... It’s just all about managing the ups and downs, not letting anything get into my head, working hard, keeping the goals in mind.”
Nathan Chen's Winning Streak Ends
Nathan Chen came into the weekend riding a win streak that spanned more than three competitive seasons and 14 straight competitions. He was undefeated since missing out on the podium in PyeongChang in 2018. While his shock third-place finish in Las Vegas doesn't change his aspirations for the upcoming season and Olympic Games, it showed he has room to improve when it comes to consistency. In an interview with NBC's Andrea Joyce, Chen said he felt his opponents were "more prepared" for Skate America and that he's looking forward to Skate Canada, up next.
Hubbell & Donohue Edge Chock & Bates
In the ice dance competition, American duo Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue won their fourth straight Skate America title -- and the final one of their careers, as they plan to retire after this season. They narrowly defeated longtime rivals and U.S. teammates Madison Chock and Evan Bates, 209.54 to 208.23. The third-place pair, Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorenson were well behind at 190.13.
This was Hubbell and Donohue’s fifth Skate America appearance and medal in six years, while it was the first for Chock and Bates in six years.
Amber Glenn Leads American Women
At sixth place, Amber Glenn was the top American finisher in ladies' singles after 2018 Olympian Bradie Tennell withdrew with injury ahead of the competition. Glenn put up a personal best score (133.45) in her free skate, performed to "Rain In Your Black Eyes" by Ezio Bosso.
"It was just the energy that made this performance so brilliant," analyst Johnny Weir said.
Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier 4th in Pairs
American pair Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier finished fourth in the pairs competition, leading the U.S. entrants. In their free skate, Knierim and Frazier performed to Coldplay's “Fix You” and earned 136.60 points, a new international best. The veteran pair, which just got together in the spring of last year, had a tougher time with their short program, scoring 66.37. Fellow Americans Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson took fifth overall and Chelsea Liu and Danny O'Shea were seventh.