US figure skater Chen wins 3rd Grand Prix Finals in a row

Sports

Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu competes in the men’s free skating during the figure skating Grand Prix finals at the Palavela ice arena, in Turin, Italy, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

TURIN, Italy (AP) — American figure skater Nathan Chen won the Grand Prix Finals for the third season in a row Saturday, beating Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu by a dominant 44-point margin.

Chen and Hanyu both landed five quadruple jumps in their free skates,a number that was almost unimaginable in skating even a few years ago, but Chen skated his program clean to score a total 335.20 points, while Hanyu made crucial errors.

The only difficult moment for Chen came on a combination when he improvised a triple Salchow instead of a flip after coming off his previous jump in a less-than-ideal position.

Chen became only the second men’s skater to win the Grand Prix Finals three times in a row. The only other skater to have done that is Hanyu, who won four straight competitions from 2013 through 2016.

Hanyu dropped points late in the program with just a single Axel instead of a triple. The Japanese skater crouched on the ice at the end of his skate and looked exhausted, scoring 291.43.

It was the second consecutive skate with uncharacteristic errors from Hanyu, who missed a combination in Friday’s short program.

Skating on his 25th birthday, Hanyu landed five quads in a program for the first time, and paid tribute to Chen, saying the competitiveness between them was driving the sport forward.

“Sometimes somebody says (if) figure skating is a sport or not, and I’m really feeling it’s a sport in here,” Hanyu said.

Chen returned the compliment, saying: “It’s an amazing honor to be able to compete against Yuzuru. I’ve looked up to him, idolized him for years and even now he’s someone who is truly like a skating god to me.”

Skating last, Chen had a long wait to take to the ice while the rink was cleared of stuffed toys thrown by Hanyu’s legion of passionate fans.

Kevin Aymoz took bronze to become the first French man to win a medal in the Grand Prix Finals since Brian Joubert won 13 years ago.

Aymoz landed a quad toeloop-triple toeloop combination, but fell on another quad toeloop, as he scored 275.63. He and his coach were in tears when they heard the score.

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