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Nathan Chen wins Skate America as Jason Brown takes silver in return

LAS VEGAS -- Two-time world champion Nathan Chen of the United States won Skate America for the third straight time, scoring 196.38 in the free skate Saturday night for a total of 299.09 in the first of six events in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series.

Chen outdistanced U.S. teammate Jason Brown, who took the silver medal at 255.09 in his first competition since an August car accident that left him with a concussion. Russian skater Dmitri Aliev, who finished with a score of 253.55, finished third.

For Brown, who admitted he still is getting acclimated to being on the ice, fighting "through bits and pieces'' of his programs, his long program was even more impressive considering it was without any quad elements, while both Chen and Aliev had them in their routines.

"I think it speaks to the quality that I've been working so hard to continue to improve,'' said Brown, who has now medaled four times in five Skate America events. "I work on the quad jumps every single day, and I put in so much time into them. It's definitely frustrating at times. They're getting better and more consistent in practice, but bringing them into a competition setting is a different animal.''

Especially since it's only been roughly a month since he suffered from severe headaches while spinning on the ice.

"I do think there was a period of time of feeling these symptoms and not being able to push past a certain point, you do get a little nervous,'' Brown said. "The concussion portion scared me a lot, just because you start thinking, 'Is this the new normal?'''

With an energetic crowd inside Orleans Arena igniting the 24-year-old, he looked every bit like the seven-time medalist on the Grand Prix circuit that he is, during his long program.

Brown, who is of Jewish descent, delivered an emotional performance to "Schindler's List,'' featuring a triple Axel-double toe and another triple Axel, as well as five additional exquisite triple jumps and several flawless spins. The program ended with Brown expressively sprawled out, face down, at center ice amid a raucous ovation.

"I've always wanted to skate to 'Schindler's List,' and I think for me was trying to find the right time, because I really wanted to do it justice and I really wanted to be old enough with the music, where it wasn't just like I was skating to a piece that I loved. But I really understood what I was skating to, and I was really was mature enough to handle the content and bring it to life,'' Brown said. "There is that little bit of significance, that desire to put out a story when I go out and compete in this program. That's what I was very focused to do today."

In pairs, China's Cheng Peng and Yang Jin won the gold at 200.89. Russia's Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin took second at 196.98, and Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier earned the bronze at 192.70.

"This competition, it's Skate America and it's important and it feels like the most important thing we're ever gonna do in our career, because it's right now and it's happening in the present," Denney said. "But this is just a step to the big picture, and our big goal, which is the Olympics.''

In ladies, 15-year-old Russian Anna Shcherbakova dazzled the late session with a long program that included a back-to-back quad lutz-triple toe to second quad lutz, as well as a costume color change mid-routine. She earned a personal-best 160.16 and the gold medal with an overall score of 227.76.

Bradie Tennell, the 2018 U.S. national champion, took the silver at 216.44, while Russia's Elizaveta Tuktamysheva came away with the bronze with a final tally of 205.97.

In dance, heavily favored Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (209.55) held off Russia's Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin (206.57) for their second straight Skate America gold. It marked the 11th straight year an American team won the event. Canadian pair Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen earned bronze at 197.53.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.