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US Figure Skating Championships 2021: Saturday TV Schedule, Top Contenders

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2021

Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier perform during the pairs short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher/Associated Press

Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier dominated the pairs short program Thursday, and on Saturday, they will look to put an exclamation point on their nationals performance in the pairs free program.

Their return to the ice is just one part of a jam-packed Saturday that also features the first appearance of four-time U.S. champion Nathan Chen.

The celebrated male skater will take to the ice eager to make history as the first five-time champion since Dick Button won seven from 1946-52.

He will not be without competition.

    

Saturday Schedule

Men's Short (4 p.m. - 6 p.m.*, NBC; Skate order)

Pairs Free (9 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.*, NBC Sports; Skate order)

Free Dance (10:30 p.m. - 12 a.m.*, NBC Sports; Skate order currently unavailable)

*Men's short and free programs are subject to change pending NFL schedule changes.

    

Knierim and Frazier Control Pairs Competition

Knierim and Frazier control the pack following an impressive pairs short program in which they scored six full points higher than their closest competition, Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson.

Both skaters are products of previous championship-winning pairs. When defending titleholder Knierim's husband Chris retired, she knew exactly who she wanted to pair with moving forward.

"I just needed to see if he liked me and liked our skating, and if he would even be comfortable coming into an environment by himself with a whole new team. To me it wasn't a tryout. To me it was the beginning of our partnership," she told NBC Sports' Olympic Talk.

The success in Thursday's free program has them in the proverbial driver's seat for one of two spots at the world championships.

That competition takes place March 22-28.

They skate eighth Saturday.

   

Adequate Competition for Nathan Chen

The eyes of the figure skating world are on Nathan Chen and his quest for a fifth national championship this year, but do not count out Jason Brown and Vincent Zhou, both of whom are more than capable of defeating the favorite and emerging with a title of their own.

At the 2020 nationals, Brown's "total program component scores (PCS) were just a shade lower than Chen's," according to Team USA's official website.

This will be Brown's first live competition since February, and though he detailed his struggles with the monotony of everyday practice without competing over the last 11 months for NBC Sports, he is focused on earning a win and, ultimately, a spot on the 2022 Olympic team.

"I work on both (toe loop and salchow), trying to push forward and have that (competitive) mentality. I'm eyeing the 2021-2022 Olympic season, as far as that end game," he told Team USA.

SkateAmerica silver medalist Zhou is a technician on the ice with a flair for the artistic and quadruple jumps.

He is more than capable of overtaking Chen and Brown if either make even the slightest slip-up.

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