It was enough for Emily Chen and Spencer Howe to win the pairs short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
The duo, who have been sidelined all season while Howe recovers from a torn labrum in his shoulder, topped the leaderboard with 65.86 points on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio. But hours later, Chen and Howe withdrew from the remainder of the game so that he could continue his recovery from surgery last May.
“Tonight was a huge success for us and a huge milestone in our comeback, but we felt like we wanted to use this time to continue to stay healthy and prepare ourselves for success,” Howe said in a statement.
Chen and Howe can still compete in the world championships in Montreal in March, where the United States will field three teams. But they will need to submit a petition, and U.S. Figure Skating said Chen and Howe have indicated that is their intention.
Their exit from nationals means Ellie Kamm and Danny O’Shea are close behind with 64.57 points, moving into first place in Saturday’s free skate. Katie McBeath and Daniil Parkman surprisingly finished second with 64.21 points.
The women’s match will feature doubles between Amber Glenn and defending champion Isabeau Levito.
Glenn briefly took the lead Thursday night when she completed a triple flip triple toe loop combination as well as a double axel and triple loop to earn a career-high 74.98 points. The 24-year-old shouted in surprise and delight as her score was read out in the kiss-and-cry section, and Glenn topped the leaderboard when Levito stepped onto the ice.
The 16-year-old countered Glenn’s speed and power with grace and grace, and her leaping passes were equally flawless. It was an impressive rebound from the Grand Prix final, where Levito struggled mightily in the short program and if this were an international competition, her score of 75.38 would rank her third in the world this season.
“I have a new short program but haven’t competed yet,” Levito said. “I’m happy with how I skated today.”
In rhythm dance, four-time defending U.S. champions Madison Chalk and Evan Bates showed exactly why they are also reigning world champions. Their show, set to the music of rock band Queen, scored 92.17 points, well ahead of Christina Carrera and Antoni Ponomarenko in second place, and Caroline Green and Michael in third place ·Parsons.
“Queen is a legendary band. It’s incredible,” Jock said. “We love their music. It’s as close to a concert feeling as we can get. It gives me chills to hear how incredible they are. We love that music.”
After years of struggling on the international stage, the American duo’s ranks are on the rise, with Alexa Knierim and Brendan Fraser winning the world title two years ago and taking silver last season.
But with Knierim and Fraser taking a year off and their futures uncertain, the national competition became a free-for-all.
McBeas and Parkman, who won the U.S. Championship for the first time since forming a team last year, completed their short program “Requiem for a Dream” by throwing a triple Lutz and scored early. It wasn’t until the final group that Cam and O’Shea pushed them aside, even though they fell during three throws.
However, Chan and Howe were already riding high before his injury, finishing fifth at Worlds and sitting at the top of the list. Their show, set to the music of Elvis Presley, wasn’t their best performance but still won the admiration of huge crowds in arenas across the country.
As it turns out, this is fans’ only chance to see Chan and How this weekend.
“When we got here,” Chen said, “it reminded us of what it was like to be in a competition environment. It’s been a while since we’ve been in a big arena. So it’s nice to be here and feel the energy of the crowd , we all support each other when we go out and perform. We know we’re going to go out together, so we hang back in each other’s comfort and we do what we do best together right now.”