West Valley City • Hours before he took to the ice to perform in front of his hometown crowd, Nathan Chen strolled through the doors of a banquet room inside the Maverik Center in a jean jacket ready to be honored the way most superstar Olympians are.
The 19-year-old figure skater, who finished fifth overall in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February has his own day back home in Salt Lake City.
On Wednesday afternoon, before performing in the Stars on Ice tour in West Valley City alongside fellow Olympic veterans, Chen was awarded a proclamation by Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams and council members Michael H. Jensen and Jenny Wilson forever making May 16, “Nathan Chen Day.”
“It’s an honor to represent Salt Lake City,” Chen said.
The proclamation was officially passed Tuesday by Mayor McAdams and the county council. Chen, born and raised in Salt Lake City, learned to skate on the ice at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex as a 3-year-old after the 2002 Olympic Winter Games were in Salt Lake. As Jensen read the proclamation aloud, he worked in a charming anecdote of Chen refusing to leave the ice as a toddler, obsessed with skating.
Wilson, a former volunteer director during the 2002 Games, awarded Chen with a green retro 2002 Olympic coat and as well as a 2002 pin. Wilson said the most important result of the 2002 Olympics was establishing a legacy which helped breed future athletes.
“You are, indeed, just exactly that,” she told Chen, “our future and what we wanted to see.”
Chen is the two-time reigning U.S. figure skating champion and went on to win his first-ever world championship. Chen dominated the field in Italy in March on his way to the world crown. Once he’s done with the Stars on Ice tour, he’ll start preparing for his next phase of life: College. Chen will enroll at Yale University this fall.
But as McAdams noted, no matter how high he soars off the ice or how many quadruple jumps he lands, Salt Lake wanted to make it official this week.
“We’re always happy to be your home,” he said.