Karen Chen, 15, finished third with 199.79 points in her senior national debut. She became the youngest U.S. women’s medalist since Mirai Nagasu won at 14 in 2008. Chen is too young for the world championships.
Chen, only 4-foot-10, was sixth after the short program and should be one of the favorites at the junior World Championships in March. She missed the cutoff to be eligible for the senior World Championships by six weeks. Chen landed six triple jumps Saturday, bubbling with zest throughout the program and becoming the youngest U.S. women’s medalist since Mirari Nagasu won at age 14 in 2008. She broke her right ankle in late 2013, and it wasn’t until a few months ago that she “finally felt like I could stand my ground,” Chen said.
“I feel confident in what I’m doing, and I can actually believe in myself and just go do what I can do,” she added.
Chen, who trains in Riverside under Tammy Gambil, was ninth at last year’s junior World Championships.
A one-time U.S. intermediate and novice champion, Chen fractured her right ankle last season while practicing a triple Lutz. The injury forced her to miss the Junior Grand Prix final. Also, Chen withdrew from the junior women’s competition at the U.S. championships after placing fifth in the short program.
But in the fall she won a silver medal and bronze medal during the Junior Grand Prix season to show she had fully recovered.
Chen came to the nationals under the radar. But she will leave with many looking at her as America’s next big hope.