3-way battle in women's event The names that jump off the page to me in the women's event could result in a three-way battle for the top spot. Japanese teenager Kaori Sakamoto, 19, demonstrated last season that she has the goods. Sakamoto earned a national title and a top-five finish at worlds.
Wakaba Higuchi, also from Japan, was ranked second in the world in 2018. Last season, plagued by injuries, Higuchi wasn't able to perform to potential, but she's hoping to correct that — starting with Skate America.
The 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva from Russia wants to regain the 'hold on gold' she once had. Tuktamysheva has the kind of presence that makes you believe she could.
Chen balancing skating, school As far as the men go, the obvious choice to take the title is three-time American, two-time Skate America and two-time world champion Nathan Chen.
Another skater who should put up a fight include two-time world bronze medallist Boyang Jin of China. Jin's short program was choreographed this season by Nichol, too.
"When Boyang and I worked together in July, he performed with quality, sweeping movement and tenderness," said Nichol. "I hope this season that he finds confidence to perform in competition how he can truly skate."
Always looking to stay ahead of the pack, Chen's initial secret weapon was his jumping ability. With the passage of time, it has become clear that Chen can also express music with the best of them. In this season, Chen is as attentive as ever, both on and off the ice as a Yale student.
"I am trying to find that balance between school and skating," said Chen. "My skating focus this year of course is to continue improving and to continue the work that I have been doing. I want to be the best I can be."
At his best, Chen could perform three or four quads in Las Vegas. Not wanting to become complacent, Chen will perform programs as diverse as La Boheme, choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne, for the short, and Rocketman, choreographed by Marie-France Dubreuil, for the free.
Team USA's Bradie Tennell delivered a solid short program to take the lead in the women's competition at Skate America and strengthen her hopes of a home title in Las Vegas.
There was a standing ovation for 21-year-old Tennell from the Orleans Arena crowd as she posted a clean skate for a personal best score of 75.10, landing a triple Lutz, triple toeloop combination, a double Axel and a triple flip.
Tennell, an Olympic bronze medallist in the team event at PyeongChang 2018, said after her performance that she had only returned to full training a month prior after suffering a broken foot in the summer.
"Before my injury, I really can't remember the last time that I didn't have pain on the ice with my feet but it got really bad at the beginning of July and then it started getting progressively worse very quickly," said Tennell.
"I was just completely off the ice for a while, in a boot. I was in the boot for about two months and I only went back to full training about one month ago."
At Skate America on Friday night, fans got a glimpse of the “real” Bradie Tennell — strong, smart, funny; a little salty, but a little sweet.
Performing a short program set to a fast-paced medley of Kirrill Richter’s staccato piano compositions, Tennell practically gave off sparks while unleashing a solid triple Lutz, triple toe loop combination, liquid spins and her best steps ever.
The Las Vegas crowd gave her a standing ovation and so did the judges, who awarded the 2019 U.S. national silver medalist a personal best 75.10 points.
For the first time ever, Tennell leads a Grand Prix event, taking a 1.85-point advantage into Saturday’s free skate.
“I went out with the mindset to do it like I do every day in practice, no better but certainly no worse,” she said.
The 21-year-old skater, who grabbed attention with a surprising bronze medal at 2017 Skate America and went on to win the 2018 U.S. title, hasn’t always revealed as much of herself in interviews as some of her peers. She’s mostly been content with doing her job on the ice, and last season placed a solid seventh at the world championships.
“I think (this program) just allows me to show the side of myself that I am off the ice with my family, a little bit more sarcastic, a little bit funny,” Tennell said. “It’s almost like an onion when you peel back the layers. To show this program is a challenge for me but it’s a challenge I welcome.”