Chen wins third straight Skate America crown

Nathan Chen has qualified for the ice skating Grand Prix Finals (AFP Photo/EZRA SHAW)

Los Angeles (AFP) - Nathan Chen grabbed his third straight Skate America Grand Prix title on Saturday, delivering three quadruple jumps in a crowd-pleasing free skate to seal the gold.

The 20-year-old American, winner of the last two World titles, took a lead of more than six points into the closing free skate, where his programme to Elton John's "Rocket Man" -- with a dash of dazzling footwork to "Bennie and the Jets" to close -- came off without a hitch at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"I'm really happy with that," said Chen, whose 196.38 points for the free skate gave him a total of 299.09 in the first event of the International Skating Union's Grand Prix series.

"That's a good starting score," he said. "Hopefully I can continue to build off of that.

"Of course I made a couple of errors, so I need to clean those up," added Chen, but it was hard to find fault with a programme that opened with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and included an impressive quadruple flip as well as two more quadruple jumps.

He led a US one-two, 44 points ahead of compatriot Jason Brown (255.09).

Brown, fourth after the short programme, finished second in the free skate to climb the standings while Russian Dmitri Aliev, second after the short, settled for bronze after a free skate that saw him double a planned opening quadruple lutz and single a late triple Axel.

Chinese national champions Peng Cheng and Jin Yang notched their first Grand Prix victory when they lifted the pairs title with a total of 200.89 points.

Skating to the "Cloud Atlas" soundtrack, Peng and Jin completed a triple toe-double toe and a throw triple Salchow as they overcame her fall on a throw triple loop.

"We've won several silver medals and we've been longing for a gold medal," Peng said. "We put in a lot of effort and this gold medal is like a new starting point for us and will push us further."

The pair, who had settled for fourth at the World Championships in Japan in March, held a narrow 1.48-point lead going into the free skate and won the final phase of competition to stretch their lead over Russians Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin, who took silver with a total of 196.98.

Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier were second in the free skate to move up a spot and take the bronze medal with a total of 192.70 points.

In the women's competition, Russian teenager Anna Shcherbakova rallied from a slow start in her short programme to win the women's title on Saturday.

The 15-year-old Shcherbakova finished her free skate with 227.76 total points to easily beat out runner-up American Bradie Tennell who led after Friday's short programme. Russia's Elizaveta Tuktamysheva took the bronze.

Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue won gold in the ice dance category with 209.55 points.