U.S. Figure Skating Championships: Tara Lipinski Offers Insight on the Competitors

ISU Junior & Senior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final

The next Winter Games may be three years away, but anticipation for Beijing 2022 heats up this week in Detroit at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Roughly 400 athletes will be taking the ice in 20 different categories — including men’s and ladies’ singles, pairs and ice dancing across five levels of competition — with NBCSN and NBC covering Thursday afternoon through Sunday.

“For a skater, this is the biggest event of the year,” says 1998 gold medalist Tara Lipinski, who will call the action with fellow Olympian Johnny Weir and sportscaster Terry Gannon. “Making it to the nationals is very special.”

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Indeed, the championships are “part of the journey” for those hoping to distinguish themselves at an international level, she notes. Athletes in the top division will vie for spots on the U.S. team for March’s world championships in Saitama, Japan.

Among those looking to take a title are ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. The defending national champs finished a so-close-to-the-podium fourth place at the PyeongChang Games last February but have been on a tear since, winning three major fall competitions, among them December’s Grand Prix Final.

Lipinski and Weir at the 2018 Winter Olympics (Credit: Tara Lipinski/Instagram)

“The world championships are on their minds. They’re making that next huge step in their career,” says Lipinski, adding, “They set themselves apart from the other teams with their chemistry.”

In men’s and ladies’ singles, defending champions Nathan Chen and Bradie Tennell are the favorites. Both picked up bronze medals in the team event in Korea but faltered in the individual competitions. Chen rebounded by nabbing 2018 world championship gold last March and dominated the fall Grand Prix season thanks to a seemingly unlimited arsenal of quadruple jumps. Says Lipinski: “Nathan has mastered not only the technical part of his program but also the other part of skating, which is artistry.”

As for sartorial artistry, Lipinski promises she and the flamboyantly dressed Weir will deliver: “We definitely want to put on a show!”

U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Thursday, January 24, 5/4c and 9/8c, NBCSN