SUNRISE, Fla., April 11 (UPI) — Olympians Nathan Chen and Adam Rippon are friends and close teammates. But their styles of figure skating couldn’t be more different. “Sass queen” Rippon is known for artistic, emotional programs that often forgo quads, while Chen is known as the “quad king,” working six quads into his free skate and becoming the first to land five different kinds of quadruple jumps in a single program.
In a recent interview from their Stars on Ice tour, UPI spoke to Chen and Rippon about the future of the “quad revolution.”
The International Skating Union has proposed a rule change that would eliminate one jump element from the men’s free skate, likely in response to the high number of quadruple jumps in the men’s event.
Occasionally, this movement toward technical prowess creates history makers like Chen. Other times, it leads to competitions full of mistakes, falls and injuries.
“I don’t think anyone was planning on someone doing six quads in a program. I don’t think the rules were set up for somebody to do that,” Rippon said in reference to Chen’s Olympic free skate. “They need to tailor the rules around that and they need to make it so it’s not one person skates well in a competition and then there’s 400 disasters.”
The men’s Grand Prix Final this season was generally regarded as a splatfest, with top skaters attempting quads left and right and falling on most of them. In the Olympic team event, the men’s field suffered a wave of falls, as well.
“It’s for skating in general that when an audience member goes to watch that they see generally nice skates,” Rippon said. “The hard thing now is that people are trying all these things to be competitive, that the majority of them fall short because it’s incredibly difficult.”
Chen said he wouldn’t mind the rule change.
“If that’s the direction the ISU wants to take the sport and take men’s, I’m cool with it. Whatever they throw our way, we just have to adapt and overcome as best as possible.”
Rippon said he would likely remove a double axel from his program. Chen would likely keep the quads and just get rid of one triple.
Chen and others have landed the toe loop, loop, salchow, lutz and flip with four complete revolutions, but the quadruple axel has yet to be accomplished.
Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan has spoken about attempting it, but no one has tried it on competitive ice.
“I mean it’s a possibility, but since no one has ever successfully done a quad axel, I don’t know where people can take it,” Chen said. “It’s something we can consider.”
The quadruple jump isn’t so new, but has become more prevalent in men’s skating in the last few years.
Rippon, along with other skaters like Jason Brown, are highly regarded competitors who have competed alongside the top six skaters in the world, including Hanyu, Javier Fernandez and Shoma Uno. But without as many quads, their scores are often far behind, despite receiving high marks for presentation.
“I think a quad is really about body type and that you started it when you were young,” Rippon said. “Because you’re asking a bunch of grown men to do them, but now you’re expecting a 12-year-old girl to do it. Is it really about strength? It’s not. It’s about timing and body composition.”
Thirteen-year-old Alexandra Trusova of Russia became the first female skater to land two quads in a program, landing both a quadruple salchow and a quadruple toe loop in her free skate at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships last month.
The ISU has also brought up some other ideas, including devaluing the base score of quadruple jumps by up to 10 percent to better balance artistry and athleticism in competitive programs.
Some scoring changes could come in the next season, which begins in September, with more radical moves by the 2022 Olympics, including the possibility of separate medals for artistry and athleticism.