Nathan Chen returns home with Olympic dreams

Reigning national champion competes on home ice in Salt Lake City this week

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) - When he was three years old, Nathan Chen loving ice skating so much, he cried when the Zamboni machine came on the ice, and the skaters had to stop.

"That's the story my mom loves to tell me," Chen said. "But yeah, I think that as soon as I stepped on the ice, I found my passion for it and I loved it. Regardless of what I was doing, I knew that I loved being on the ice."

And it's this ice at the Salt Lake Sports Complex where it all started, and this week, Nathan, now 18, will compete here in the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic with some of the best skaters in the world.

"This is very cool," Chen said. "This is actually the start of my season, so this will be the very first competition of my season. It's cool to be back in Salt Lake City. This is the ice that I grew up on. The first time that I skated was actually on this ice. There will be a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, so it's going to be great."

Nathan's skating career was put on hold after undergoing hip surgery in January of 2016, but he's come back stronger than ever.

"It wasn't a career ending injury at all," Chen said. "I had a lot of confirmation from doctors, so I had a lot of faith coming out of the injury knowing that I could come right back to where I was. Rehab was great, and everything just started clicking back into place."

This past January, Nathan became the first skater in history to successfully complete five quad jumps in a single routine. That's four rotations in a single jump, five times. It won him the U.S. national championship.

"That was amazing," he said. "I was picturing it in my head. I knew what it would feel like, so when it happened it was kind of just a blur. Looking back on it, I'm glad that everything clicked at the right time."

With the Winter Olympics less than five months away, Nathan is perhaps USA's best chance at a medal. Seeing how only two American men have medalled in the last six Olympics (Brian Boitano, Evan Lysacek), that would be quite an accomplishment.

"Ultimately, my biggest goal right now is to make the team," Chen said. "Once I make the team, I can then set my sights on what my plans will be at the Olympic games. My biggest dream is to be on top of that podium at the Olympics. I know, generally, the steps that I need to take to get there. It's a long way. Obviously when I was a little kid, I never expected to be where I am now. But, I definitely have more ways to go."

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