US figure skating champ Nathan Chen wins on home ice

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Nathan Chen won the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic at his hometown Salt Lake City Sports Complex on Thursday night, scoring 91.80 points with a new program he’s developing for the Pyeongchang Olympics.

”This is the sheet that I grew up on,” the 18-year-old Chen said. ”Actually, the first time I skated was on this ice. To be right back where I started is indescribable. It’s really, really cool. This is Olympic season, the season that I’ve looked forward to my entire life.”

Chen won the U.S. and Four Continents titles last winter and was sixth in the world championships.

”There definitely is more pressure,” Chen said. ”You have more expectations on you for that. It just increases your energy. It increases your internal expectations for yourself.”

Chen attempted only one flip and missed on a triple toe attempt.

Fellow American Max Aaron was second at 86.06, followed by Canada’s Liam Firus at 83.46.

Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro took the pairs short program at 65.76. Americans Chelsa Liu and Brian Johnson followed with 61.46 points, and 2015 U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chirs Knierim were third at 61.32.

For Scimeca-Knierim, the third-place skate represented another big step in her comeback after a serious illness required three abdominal surgeries in 2016. She lost 20 pounds and the husband-wife team was forced to withdraw from multiple competitions before returned in February at the Four Continents Championships.

”I had to rebuild my body from zero as far as muscle mass,” Scimeca-Knierim said. ”I’m really in tune with my body and I feel great. I don’t really have health concerns moving forward, just typical athlete concerns of normal injuries.”