By SCOTT M. REID / STAFF WRITER
Vincent Zhou, the brand-new Junior World champion, was recently looking back on the period when men’s figure skating first took flight.
“There was a time when if you did one quad (jump),” Zhou said, “you were very good.”
That time was the early 2000s, more than a decade B.N.
Nathan Chen, the 17-year-old Salt Lake City born, Irvine-based skater, is among the gold medal favorites at his first World Figure Skating Championships this week in Helsinki.
“I have the stuff that I need, that anyone needs to win it,” Chen said. “It depends on how well I perform it.”
That stuff, the right stuff, is a resume of quad jumps the sport has never seen before.
Even before touching down in Finland, Chen had already transformed men’s skating, launching the sport into a new gravity-defying, record-shattering era. Going into Worlds, Chen has landed 18 consecutive clean quadruple jumps in competition, including five in his U.S. Championships free skate in January and another five at Four Continents, where he knocked off an Olympic and Worlds caliber field.
“Five is the new normal,” Zhou said.
But for how long?
Chen hints that he has only began to push the edge of the envelope, a prospect that has sent his rivals scrambling, touching off a sort of skating arms race.
A measure of Chen’s influence on the direction of the sport is reflected in a recent announcement by Canada’s Patrick Chan, the three-time World champion and 2014 Olympic silver medalist, that Chen’s recent performances have led him to rethink his programs. Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic champion, landed four clean quads at Four Continents at the 2018 Olympic venue in Pyeongchang and still couldn’t touch Chen. The actions of Brian Orser, Hanyu’s coach, when Chen’s short program in South Korea appeared on the scoreboard suggests the teenager is already in his rivals’ heads.