Skating in front of cardboard cutouts instead of fans, Anchorage figure skater Keegan Messing made his season debut Friday night at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas by placing third in the men’s short program at Skate America.
The only skaters ahead of Messing are Americans who finished on the podium at the last World Champonships, in 2019.
Nathan Chen, the two-time world champion, dominated with the second-highest short program score in history -- 111.17 points (Japan’s Hanyu Yuzuru owns the record at 111.82).
Vincent Zhou, the bronze medalist at the 2019 World Championships, was second with 99.36 points and Messing was third with 92.40.
Messing, a 2018 Olympian, landed all of his jumps, including a quad toe-triple toe combination.
The competition is the first Grand Prix event of a season that has been abbreviated by COVID-19. Skate America is one of only four Grand Prix events being held this year, and Messing can thank his dual U.S./Canadian citizenship for being in Las Vegas this week.
Messing, whose mom was born in Alberta, competes for Canada but has long lived and trained in Anchorage. That made him eligible to compete at Skate America, which besides prohibiting spectators as part of its mitigation plan -- hence the cardboard cutouts -- restricted participation to Americans and foreign skaters training in the United States.
Messing, 28, said he was dedicating his performance to his teammates who weren’t able to travel to Skate America.
“I’m just stoked that we were able to have a competition here. I didn’t realize how much I missed having the butterflies in my stomach,” he said a post-skate press conference, where he wore a gold-and-blue mask with the Alaska flag on it. “This program wasn’t just for me, it was for Nam Nguyen and for all of (Team Canada).”
The men’s freeskate is Saturday afternoon. It follows the women’s freeskate, which Mariah Bell enters with a 3.19-point lead over Bradie Tennell.
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