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‘Absolutely brilliant’ Utahn Nathan Chen sets record at pre-Olympic figure skating championships

SHARE ‘Absolutely brilliant’ Utahn Nathan Chen sets record at pre-Olympic figure skating championships
Nathan Chen competes in the men’s short program during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Nashville, Tennessee.

Nathan Chen competes in the men’s short program during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.

Mark Zaleski, Associated Press

Utah native Nathan Chen got off to a phenomenal start Saturday at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships as he looks to secure a spot in the Beijing Olympics next month.

Chen leads the field halfway through the competition in Nashville after compiling the highest score ever for an American in short program at 115.39, topping his own previous record of 114.13.

Vincent Zhou is not too far behind Chen after scoring a 112.78, but the rest of the field is way back of that duo, as Ilia Malinin is in third after scoring a 103.46 and Jason Brown is in fourth after posting a 100.84.

Three will earn spots in the Olympics, with Sunday afternoon’s free skate the concluding portion of the competition.

The commentators on NBC were blown away by the 22-year-old Chen’s performance, with 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski saying, “Is he superhuman? I don’t understand this. It is so crazy how he keeps pushing the technical level at this point in his career. He’s been pushing skating into the unknown.”

Added fellow former Olympian Johnny Weir: “Absolutely brilliant short program from Nathan Chen. This is the message he needs to send out to the world ahead of the Olympics.”

Chen was the gold medal favorite at the 2018 Olympics in Korea but completely fell apart and did not get on the podium at all.

Sunday’s free skate begins at 12 p.m. MST and can be seen on NBC.