For the third time in as many years, Nathan Chen is the best men's figure skater in the United States.
Chen received a score of 228.80 points in Sunday's free skate, giving him 342.22 overall to take home gold at the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. Vincent Zhou finished in second place, and Jason Brown earned the bronze.
2019 U.S. Men's Figure Skating Results
1. Nathan Chen (342.22 points)
2. Vincent Zhou (284.01 points)
3. Jason Brown (273.08 points)
4. Tomoki Hiwatashi (253.28 points)
5. Aleksei Krasnozhon (234.52 points)
Chen, a 19-year-old who is currently a freshman at Yale, entered the free skate with a heavy advantage. His score of 113.42 during the short program put him more than 10 points ahead of Brown (100.52) and made him the heavy favorite.
"Everything that I've done, good and bad in the past, stays in the past," Chen told reporters after the short program. "I learned quite a lot from the Olympics, and I think I learned more from my mistakes than from when I skated really well. Those are things I try to carry with me. I definitely don't want to jinx my head, I want to stay in the moment with what I'm doing. Every nationals is a challenge, so I'm glad I skated the way that I did."
Chen finished a disappointing fifth in the 2018 Olympics, winning his only medal (a bronze) in the team skate competition. He will head into the World Championships looking to repeat his effort from last year.
Repeat winners are par for the course at the World Championships. Javier Fernandez won in both 2015 and 2016, and Patrick Chan's reign of dominance at the event lasted from 2011 to 2013.
Chen would be the first American to win back-to-back World Championships since Scott Hamilton in 1981 to '84. The world championships will luckily be held when Yale is on spring break.
"Of course," Chen said when asked if he had difficulty balancing school and skating, per Christine Brennan of USA Today. "There were times that I was really struggling with them both, not sure how I was going to handle the two, especially around competition time, around Skate America, it was a lot. Midterms are coming up, this is the first competition of the season, if you don't do well, the first half of the season kind of ends right there, so I just felt there was a lot of pressure there. I just took that for the good I could take out of that and just try to focus on using that to develop myself as a skater and as a person."
Chen showed no signs of struggle either Saturday or Sunday. His free skate was just as flawless as his short program, with Chen hitting quads and triple axels with a generational combination of grace and effortlessness.
The free skate was so transformative that the Detroit crowd gave him a standing ovation as he skated around the rink after the run.
Now we'll have to see if Chen can repeat the feat at the worlds and continue to set himself up as a gold-medal favorite come 2022.