(Reuters) - Twice world champion Nathan Chen, worried about his stamina after a recent flu, responded with a sparkling free skate to become the first American to win four consecutive national titles in 32 years in Greensboro, North Carolina on Sunday.
The 20-year-old, with the sell-out crowd cheerfully applauding his quad-led performance to music from the Rocketman soundtrack, scored an impressive 216.04 points after dominating Saturday's short program.
That earned the Yale University sophomore a combined 330.17 points as he equalled twice world gold medallist Brian Boitano's four U.S. titles, the last of which came in 1988.
"I'm really happy with today," Chen told NBC Sports. "I was pretty worried with my stamina coming into this competition but the audience really helped me get through it.
"About halfway through the program I heard the audience cheering for me and I kind of forgot that and really got into the program."
Four quadruple jumps and six triples helped him pile up the points.
"He is really defining the sport," said 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski, now an analyst for NBC.
"He is so refreshing, cool and modern. He is so great at trying to bring styles."
Jason Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, was second with 292.88 points and 2019 world junior champion Tomoki Hiwatashi claimed third, scoring a lifetime best of 278.08.
Chen, undefeated since placing fifth at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, now leads the U.S. team to March’s world championships in Montreal where he will meet two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.
Chen easily defeated Hanyu twice in 2019, winning by 22.45 points at the world championship and 43.87 at the Grand Prix Final in December.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris & Kim Coghill)