On paper, there are three skaters in the men’s field at this week’s 2019 US Championships seem likely to occupy those top three spots on the podium. In reality, it might not be so simple, given how the season has gone for them and their individual life circumstances that have changed since last season. But then the question becomes - if not them, then who? There’s lots to think about heading into Detroit this week.
GEICO US Championships predictions
Official hashtag: #USChamps19
GOLD Nathan Chen - Being a full-time college student hasn’t kept Chen from maintaining his status as one of the best in the world. He’s been undefeated this season so far, most recently winning the Grand Prix Final last month. Like last season, it’s been building blocks for him in his technical content. And also like last season, as he’s built up his technical content, he’s also watered down his in-betweens. He went to Canada to sharpen up his programs before he spent time back in LA training, and for him to fend off the best of the best later in this season, it will be important for him to bring back that completeness in his programs in his quest for a third US title. Detroit will be another stepping stone for him toward Worlds in March.
SILVER Jason Brown - A huge life change to Toronto and a new coaching team gave Brown a slow start to his season. But he was finally starting to find his groove last month, with a strong win at Golden Spin despite skating with a bit of an injury there. It’s been another month since, and his confidence will be tested once again here in Detroit. Nationals has been a comfortable place for him, and despite what happened last season in his free skate, I expect him to have shaken it off and rediscover his footing this week.
BRONZE Vincent Zhou - Perhaps the biggest enigma of this event will be the defending US bronze medalist. With injuries hampering his off-season, he came into this season looking like a renewed skater, only to have his confidence thrown off-kilter with underrotation calls throughout his fall competitions. It will be a delicate balance between skating within himself and pushing the boundary to make sure he gets things rotated. We all know Zhou has the ability to peak at Nationals, and so does he.
4. Alex Johnson - Speaking of guys who peak at Nationals, Johnson is one who has been able to do that multiple times. He has been sixth here twice, and this could potentially be the year that he grabs a podium spot and potentially even a spot in an ISU Championships. Either way, you can be sure that he will try to make the most of what could be his final US Championships.
5. Camden Pulkinen - In his debut on the senior level at the US Championships, Pulkinen could potentially be the surprise of the event. He’s got the foundational skating and the musical interpretation chops to really figure out how to compete with the best skaters here. His issue is always the nerves and his self-belief - and depending on which Pulkinen shows up, he could really be anywhere in the standings.
6. Jimmy Ma - On the heels of his first Grand Prix event of his career, Ma brings a different understanding of where his place in the figure skating world is. If he can harness the energy that the crowd will inevitably provide him and not overthink his jumps, a career-high finish could be in the books.
7. Alex Krasnozhon - Still on the comeback trail after a season-ending injury at last year’s Junior Worlds, Krasnozhon enters his second US Championships after a tenth-place finish last year. It will be a question of his readiness, because his determination is always there.
8. Timothy Dolensky - Seventh the past three seasons at Nationals, Dolensky has had a less-than-satisfying season so far, skating inconsistently in his international events so far.
9. Andrew Torgashev - The potential is there, but he’s not quite figured it out at Nationals yet. He had a strong showing at a Junior Grand Prix this season but had to withdraw from the JGP Final in December.
10. Sean Rabbitt - Another crowd favorite, Rabbitt has been top ten at Nationals twice before. He will be looking for a couple of clean skates to bring him there again.