When Nathan Chen moved from his home in Salt Lake City at age 12 to train in California, his baggage included enormous potential to make an impact in figure skating one day.
When Chen, now 18, returned this week to prepare for his first competition of the Olympic season -- the 2017 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, which opens Thursday -- he carried the enormous expectations generated by having realized that potential with a groundbreaking debut year on the senior international level.
He won the free skate at the Grand Prix Final, finishing second overall. Not long after that accomplishment, he won the U.S. title by 52 points, nearly twice the previous record margin in the 13 seasons with the new scoring system. In Kansas City, he became the first to land five clean quadruple jumps in a free skate, and he repeated that feat a month later while winning the Four Continents Championships over the eventual three medalists at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships. He set national record scores for short program, free skate and event total.
Chen's performances seemed even more stunning after having been forced out of the world junior and senior championships at the end of the 2016 season with a hip injury that needed surgery.
And, as much as his old hometown might want a similar tour de force -- especially because this is his first national or international competition in Salt Lake City since winning a bronze medal in the 2008 juvenile nationals -- Chen knows it is far too early for that.