Nathan Chen and Alysa Liu will take a safe route to the World Championship

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Even the most daring figure skaters know that there are times when it is advisable to go back and stay comfortably within the limits that they generally try to move forward.

Nathan Chen, who will compete for his fourth consecutive US men’s title next week in Greensboro, North Carolina, had to limit his training due to a persistent illness, which led him to reduce the difficulty of the two programs he plans to do .

Attempting a quad loop jump is out of the question, he told reporters during a conference call on Friday, and he is not sure he will try a quadruple lutz. “Right now, I’m just trying to build my resistance, build my strength, day by day,” said Chen, who has juggled his skating with his studies as a second-year student of statistics and data science at Yale.

Chen, 20, probably won’t need the points a quad loop would gain to finish way ahead of his challengers and win a spot at the World Championship in Montreal in March. Chen, a favorite to become the first man to win four consecutive titles in the United States since Brian Boitano triumphed from 1985 to 1988, also won the last two men’s world titles.

“During the last weeks I got a little under the weather, so right now I’m just trying to get back to 100%,” said Chen, who won the Grand Prix final title in December by the absurd margin of 43.87 points about the two-time Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu from Japan. “That said, I don’t think trying to boost the technique is necessarily my goal here. More to maintain my body, maintain my health and prepare for the second half of the season as well.”

The Bay Area native, Alysa Liu, who became the youngest female champion in the US UU. Last year at age 13 and the first to achieve three clean triple axel jumps in the national competition, he also plans to eliminate some of the difficulty in his long program. Like Chen, Liu has enough high-score breaks in his repertoire to win without taking an unnecessary risk.

Liu was the leader after the short program at the Junior Grand Prix Final last month and had an ambitious plan for her freeskate final. He tried two triple axle jumps and two four lutz jumps, one as part of a combination, but he fell on the first triple axis and did not cleanly land the quadruple jumps or another triple axis.

The quality of his performance suffered and fell to second place behind the 13-year-old Russian Kamila Valieva. “I think I should have just done a quad, but I really wanted to do it just for fun,” Liu said later.

That philosophy has changed. “We decided to get a quad lutz. I’m still going to do a quad lutz on my show, but things can change, “he said this week.” For now everything is going pretty well. Right now I have been training as usual. I’ve been skating three hours every day, maybe a little less. I take it a little lighter this week, so I’m not too exhausted by nationals, so I feel fresh. “

The women’s event will be held on Thursday and Saturday; The men will compete on Saturday and Sunday. The couples event will take place on Thursdays and Saturdays, and ice dancers will compete on Fridays and Saturdays. Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc are the defending champions of the couples. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue will seek their third consecutive ice dance title.

Liu turned 14 in August, but will not be old enough to compete in high-level events until 2022, the year in which the Olympic Winter Games will be held in Beijing. But now he is eligible to compete in the world youth championships, which will be held in Estonia in early March. The US team UU. It will be selected based on the results of the competition and performance in a selection camp.

Alysa Liu competes in the short program for junior ladies at the ISU Figure Skating Grand Prix on December 5 in Turin, Italy.

(Marco Bertorello / Getty Images)

Defending a high-level national title will be a new experience, but Liu said he’s not nervous. “I don’t really worry or think about the pressure. I don’t feel so much pressure, at least right now. I don’t think I will, as it gets close, either,” he said. “I’m excited and I think I’ve trained enough. I think I’m ready for nationals, and we’ll see how it goes.”

Chen is trained by Rafael Arutunian, who lives at Great Park Ice in Irvine. “It’s an amazing facility,” said Chen, who visited Arutunian during his last school break and will train at Irvine this summer. When they are not together, they consult through Facetime, an agreement that has worked splendidly thanks to Chen’s discipline and Arutunian’s flexibility.

When Chen is fit and is the right time, he hopes to go back beyond the limits of the sport. “I have less than two years before the next Games,” he said, “so at that time I would still love to continue improving technically and artistically, as much as I can in each department, to make myself even more complete.” “Skater packer, so to speak, and of course see where the jumps can go.”

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