Nathan Chen leads after personal best in Skate America men's short program

LAS VEGAS -- Looking like a world champion even this early in the figure skating season, Nathan Chen easily won the short program at Skate America on Friday night with a personal best score.

Performing to Flamenco music in a spicy routine, the two-time world gold medalist and four-time national champion looked very much at home even without any fans at Orleans Arena. He hit a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination, a superb quad flip and showed off masterful footwork. His 111.17 points beat his short program high of 110.38 in last year's Grand Prix final.

Kicking off an already truncated figure skating season in the first event of the Grand Prix series, Chen was unchallenged.

"I felt great out there,'' Chen said. "I am happy where I am at.''

Chen is unbeaten since finishing fifth at the Pyeonchang Olympics in 2018. He's already showing where his focus is long before the 2022 Beijing Games.

"Of course, Beijing and any Olympics are a huge motivator for me,'' Chen said. "I think since I was a kid my family had raised me to be better, even if by a millimeter.''

Instead, he's getting better by leaps and bounds, and he might not have another chance to show it until the U.S. championships in late January.

"As an athlete, we are really fortunate to have the opportunity to do this,'' he said.

Skate America is one of only four series events for 2020-21, with two others in Canada and France canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Grand Prix Final in Beijing also is canceled.

Vincent Zhou, bronze medalist at the 2019 worlds, was second heading into Saturday's free skate.

Two-time U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue led after rhythm dance with 85.30 points.

Alexa Knierim and new partner Brandon Frazier won the pairs short program. Skating in their first competition as a team after Knierim's husband Chris retired, they scored 74.19 points.