One name really stood out at 2015 Glacier Falls Summer Classic: Nathan Chen. We are barely into August, and the Grand Prix series isn't even starting for another two months, but there are some very interesting first impressions from this talent-packed American club competition in LA. Here are a few thoughts from Glacier Falls.
Chen impresses - a lot
After a heal injury practically derailed the second half of last season for Nathan Chen, he's back with a vengeance. He smoked the competition, winning it by over 12 points with an 80+ short and an almost 170 free. Of course, you can't take scores from club competitions at face value, but the performances spoke for themselves. There were clean quad toes in both programs, and even the triple axel is back in form. He's an early dark horse at Nationals this season, and even if he maintains his consistency, he will still be flying under the radar - just the Junior Grand Prix for Chen this season.
Hochstein on the rise
Speaking of under the radar, Grant Hochstein also turned some heads this weekend, taking second behind Chen with some of the strongest skating he's shown (and the season hasn't even started!). For the first time in five years, Hochstein will compete on the Grand Prix, and his performances at Glacier Falls (including what seems to be consistent quad toes and triple axels) will serve him well. Note also that he beat everyone in PCS in the free skate, including Chen and a less-than-stellar Jason Brown.
Firebird does Gold well
We know that first impressions are important, and initial thoughts on Gracie Gold's are definitely positive. The general wonderment the past two seasons has about whether Gold has been being typecast as the pretty skater. But the two programs she debuted at Glacier Falls definitely break her away from the typecasting, and for the better. Already, the Firebird free skate showcases a presence and an intensity from Gold that we haven't seen too much of with Sleeping Beauty two seasons ago and Phantom last season. It will be great to see the growth of this piece in the next few months.
And boy, oh boy, she's looking strong early in the season already. Very promising.
Pre-season events are the perfect time for skaters to experiment. We definitely saw that from U.S. champ Jason Brown, who put the quad toe in both programs (fall in the short, two-foot in the free, both either underrotated or downgrade). Brown's programs are both intricate pieces of choreography that, at least so far, is leaving him little time to generate power before the jumps. Part of it has to do with the newness of the programs and the fact that he doesn't really know where to focus his energy yet, and part of it, frankly, is that Brown isn't known for his early-season prowess.
And therein lies the potential trouble of being experimental early in the season - you might just not be ready for it. The worst thing that could come out of it would be for him to lose confidence in trying quads in competition. But Brown and coach Kori Ade are pretty self-aware, so here's to hoping that they see the quad as a long-term play.
Another skater who did some experimentation at Glacier Falls was Courtney Hicks, who has been toying with the triple axel during the off-season. Her attempt in the free skate was just a bit sheepish (we've seen stronger ones from her in practice) and a downgraded fall. But there is a lot of promise in this jump for her - it helps that she seems to understand the axel pretty well and she takes the extra rotation is a natural progression instead of a completely new element. Doing the latter has marked the downfall for many, many skaters who couldn't master the triple axel. We'll see how it progresses.