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Nathan Chen competes in the men's short program during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

NASHVILLE – After a memorable national championship, U.S. Figure Skating announced the nominations to the men’s team. Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou and Jason Brown will represent the U.S. on the ice. Each man has been to the Olympics before, with Chen and Zhou on the 2018 team, and Jason Brown a bronze medalist from the 2014 Olympics.

Chen was an easy choice to make the team. He’s won the last three world titles, the last six national titles, and has been the class of men’s figure skating since he struggled at the Pyeongchang Olympics. He will be expected to contend for gold, and be a big part of the roster for the team competition. His rivalry with Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu has been one of the best developments in men’s skating, too.

In Nashville, he won his record sixth national title by a margin of more than 26 points. He easily landed several quad jumps over both competitions, though he did have a fluke fall near the end of his program on Sunday. But the experience he’s had since a disastrous short program in Pyeongchang should have him more ready for the big stage.

“I think experience is so important," Chen said Sunday night. "I've been to events for the first time and things haven't gone the way I've wanted to - worlds, the Olympics. It can be really daunting."

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Vincent Zhou competes in the men's free skate program during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Zhou took second at the national championships, and is capable of many of the same big jumps as Chen. He is capable of being one of the best skaters in the world. He took third at the world championships in 2019, and won Skate America – beating Chen – earlier this season. But he also can have disastrous skates. He took 25th at the 2021 worlds. 

Brown took fourth at nationals, and is known for his incredible artistry. His short program to Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman” doesn’t feature the big quads, but it does earn some of the biggest numbers on the component scores, which measures the more artistic aspects of the sport. 

But in making the team, Brown edged out the younger Ilia Malinin, who took third at the national championships. The 17-year-old is capable of gigantic quad jumps, but hasn’t had the same kind of experience as Brown. 

“I’ve been through every single scenario: the young kid that makes it, the guy that gets left off the team. I so feel for (Malinin). It’s really difficult. There’s no easy way no matter what, when you look at the field,” Brown said. “I’m so proud of how dense the men’s field has become. It’s remarkable. Just watching him grow and shine — he was unbelievable tonight.”

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Jason Brown competes in the men's short program during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Figure skating isn’t like speed skating or swimming in that the championships are a strict win and you’re in system. The committee looks at the complete body of work of the skater, and follows a criteria to decide who is the best person to represent the United States in the Olympics. Those criteria are drawn up and approved by the IOC months before the competition. The national championship is the final competition the committee can look at to decide. There was no easy way to decide who would be the odd man out.  

COVID knocked out several competitors throughout the course of the competition, including pairs skater Brandon Frazier and women’s skater Alysa Liu. Both were named to the Olympic team because of their body of work. Brown’s coach, Tracy Wilson, tested positive on Sunday morning. This means alternates are more important than ever, and Malinin is the first alternate for Team USA.

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