The always colorful Keegan Messing had white in his hair and bronze around his neck Saturday at Skate America.
The Anchorage figure skater captured the bronze medal at the first Grand Prix competition of the season, skating a freeskate program at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas that included a dramatic hydroblade that took him so low to the ice that flecks of ice collected in his hair.
The program capped one of the best two-day performances of Messing’s career, and it put him on a Grand Prix podium for the second time. In 2018, Messing won the silver medal at Skate Canada.
A day after a strong short program put him in third place, Messing, 28, landed two quad jumps and executed flawless, high-speed spins while skating to “November Rain” by Guns 'n Roses.
Skaters competed in a nearly empty arena where COVID-19 limited attendance to skaters, coaches, officials and media.
Cardboard cutouts took the place of spectators in some of the seats, and Messing — always the entertainer — playfully pointed to some of them while on the ice.
Afterward, he said he wants to be known as “the sportsman or the showman."
"I really feel like being a true team player and sportsman — not just to your teammates but to fellow competitors from other nations — is really important,” he told reporters at a press conference.
Messing finished in third place with 266.42 points behind gold medalist Nathan Chen (299.15) and silver medalist Vincent Zhou (275.10), both Americans. Chen is the two-time defending world champion and Zhou took bronze at the last world championships.
Messing is a longtime Alaskan whose mom was born in Alberta, so he has dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship. He lives and trains in Anchorage but has skated for Team Canada for the last several years and represented Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Skate America is one of only four Grand Prix events being held this year, and Messing’s situation — skating for Canada but living in Alaska — made it possible for him to be there. Participation was limited to Americans and foreign skaters training in the United States.
After his short program on Friday, Messing said he was dedicating his performance to his Canadian 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).”