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Tony Avelar, FR155217 AP
Nathan Chen performs during the men’s free skate event at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
SAN JOSE, Calif. — With the same icy calm and silent strength that has propelled him to the top of the podium in every competition this season, Nathan Chen earned his second straight U.S. championship with a dominating performance that included five quads and likely earned him his first trip to the Olympics.
“I am very happy with tonight,” the 18-year-old said after offering his best performance of the season — a 41-point victory that capped a night of upsets and surprises at the SAP Center in San Jose. “I laid out a five-part program, which I haven’t been able to do all season. I had a mistake on the axel, which I’ll have to address when I get home, but ultimately, I’m very happy with tonight. I think I really did my job here.”
Chen’s all-business demeanor cracked for just a moment as he reflected on how watching the 2002 Olympics in his hometown of Salt Lake City as 3-year-old ignited a fire in him that continues to burn in his heart.
“It’s been a really fun journey since 2002,” he said with a smile. “This is definitely where I wanted to be, all that I dreamed of. I’m really happy that I took all the right steps, that I put in the work to get myself where I am now. It’s all happening so fast, it seems like just yesterday that I first stepped on the ice. I still need time to really wrap my head around it. But I’m so happy with everything that’s already been happening.”
Chen’s victory was one of the few aspects of the men’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships that went as planned. While he landed all five of his planned quads and earned higher execution and component (artistic) scores than every other skater, other veterans and fan favorites suffered uncharacteristic struggles and stumbles that created quite a mess for figure skating officials to sort out as they decide which three skaters will represent the U.S. in the 2018 Olympics.