U.S. champion Nathan Chen‘s path to PyeongChang this season began Thursday night on the Salt Lake City ice rink where he first learned to skate.
The 18-year-old topped the short program at the lower-level U.S. International Classic with 91.80 points.
He attempted one quad versus his normal two as he eases into the most pressure-filled campaign of his young career against a field that does not include Olympic medal favorites.
“Obviously there’s more media, there’s a lot more talk going around,” Chen, who since last season’s world championships has worked with sponsors Bridgestone, Coca-Cola and United Airlines, told a group of media after his skate.
“This is Olympic season, the season I’ve looked forward to my entire life,” Chen added, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “I grew up in an Olympic city.”
Chen leads 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron by 5.74 points going into the free skate on Friday at 9 p.m. ET, streamed live on Icenetwork.com for subscribers.
The women’s short program, featuring three of the top four from the U.S. Championships, is Friday at 5 p.m., with the free skate Saturday at 8:30 p.m., streamed on Icenetwork.
Chen is preparing for the bigger events this fall and winter, starting with his Grand Prix debut at Rostelecom Cup in Russia in a month.
Last season, Chen landed a record seven quadruple jumps at the U.S. Championships in January and beat Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu at the Four Continents Championships in February before placing sixth at worlds.
Earlier Thursday, world silver medalist Shoma Uno led the short program at Lombardia Trophy in Italy with a personal-best 104.87 points. The 19-year-old from Japan landed two quads.
U.S. Olympian Jason Brown was second — 21.86 points behind — after falling on his lone quad attempt. Full scores are here.
In the women’s short, Japan’s Wakaba Higuchi topped Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy and world junior champion Alina Zagitova of Russia. Kostner did a triple-double combination rather than a triple-triple. Zagitova fell on a double Axel.
The Lombardia women’s free skate is Friday. The men’s free skate is Saturday. The event is streamed live here.
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