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

Maurice Bobb@@ReeseReportFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2021

Nathan Chen reacts after finishing his routine during the men's short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher/Associated Press

Four-time champion Nathan Chen will try for his fifth straight win in the men's competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Sunday. If he takes the victory, he will become the first American man to win five titles in a row since Dick Button did it in 1950.

NBC will carry full coverage of the final day of competition, starting at 2:30 p.m. ET.

                   

Schedule

2:30 p.m.-6 p.m.: NBC (live stream)

           

Top Contenders

Nathan Chen

While Chen is the favorite to win the gold medal, his path to victory isn't as certain as in years past.

On Saturday, he took the top spot with 113.92 points after landing a quadruple Lutz, a triple Axel and quad flip-triple toe loop in the short program.

"I'm thrilled with the short program today," Chen told Barry Wilner and Bernie Wilson of the Associated Press (h/t Yahoo). He continued:

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"I made a couple little bobbles on the landings and wish I had skated a little bit cleaner, but overall I'm really happy with the program.

"The season, this whole year, I mean last year and leading into this year, has just been crazy and everything is just so unexpected. The fact that we're all here, that we're all healthy, that we're able to do this is just incredible."

Challenging the two-time world gold medalist is longtime rival Vincent Zhou, who only trails by 6.13 points.

That gap is not impossible to close, but unless Chen makes a major mistake, he's a lock for the win.

                     

Vincent Zhou

After coming in fourth and just missing a medal in last year's competition, Zhou is primed to challenge for first place.

His improved performance may be due to his change in coaches and being fully healthy after dealing with some injuries.

In the short program, the 20-year old Californian scored a career-best 107.79 points.

"A score like that didn't seem like an impossibility in my head. I knew that if I got the job done I was very capable of that," Zhou told Wilner and Wilson. He continued:

"At the beginning of this year at a small, local competition, in Colorado, I scored 103 with a clean program. That was way before Skate America, that was way before I put all this effort into developing the quality of everything: my landings, my spins, my choreography. So I know that with that much room to grow I could definitely score a couple points higher than 103.

"But the whole year was just about not being too hard about specifically points but rather just keeping my head down and working to get myself to the point where if I skated like I did in practice, if I got my job done, then that would be very possible."

               

Jason Brown

Last year, Jason Brown took home the silver medal in this competition, and he's in the mix for another medal this year.

After finishing with 100.92 points Saturday, he's hoping to close the gap on Zhou and Chen.

At 26, the 2015 U.S. national champion is older than most of his competitors and doesn't quite jump as well, but he's still a viable threat to win.

                 

Yaroslav Paniot

Yaroslav Paniot has a lot of ground to cover after scoring just 83.74 during Saturday's short program.

Even with an outstanding performance Sunday, unless someone else misses the mark, the best he can hope for is fourth or fifth place.

While this will be another year that sees the 23-year old miss the podium, it will still be an improvement after he placed 10th last year.

               

Maxim Naumov

Maxim Naumov is basically neck and neck with Paniot after finishing with 83.53 points Saturday. Not bad for his first time skating in this competition. Look for the 2020 U.S. junior national champion to leave Sunday with a lot of confidence after doing so well.

                   

Prediction: Chen takes the gold, Zhou takes silver and Brown takes bronze.