The 2022 Winter Olympics are underway, and SportsEngine is going to spotlighting the reigning and emerging stars for Team USA. Check out the second installment, with five insights on Nathan Chen, a three-time World Champion, six-time U.S. national champion, and a bronze medalist at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in the team event. Chen is the favorite to win the gold medal, winning every competition he's entered since placing fifth at the 2018 Olympics. He is the first skater to land eight quadruple jumps in a single competition. You'll learn about his journey, including in the formative years that helped propel him to become one of the nation's — and world's — best.
1. Nathan started skating at the age of three.
Nathan Chen was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and he started skating at the age of 3 after watching his older brothers play hockey. He followed in the footsteps of his two older sisters, who competed in figure skating. At the age of 10, he became the youngest ever novice national champion, and he won two national titles before jumping to the senior ranks in figure skating. Nathan also participated in gymnastics for seven years and also trained in ballet.
2. Chess inspires him to keep going.
The youngest of five, Chen comes from a family that excelled academically. Two older brothers work in finance and aerospace, one of his sisters works at Apple, and the other co-founded a biotech company. Chen told G.Q. magazine that the family likes to play chess. He says he's learned about keeping his emotions in check in the face of problems from the game. Chen says it forces you to keep trying to progress, no matter how bleak things may look on the board. Where does he rank in the family? "I'm on the bottom," he told G.Q. After spending time as a student at Yale University, Chen has returned to training, one of the nation's top academic colleges.
3. He dedicates a lot of his success to his coach.
Chen's initial coach was Evgenia Chernyshova, and he also started working with Rafael Arutyunyan. When he was 13 years old, Chen moved to California to train with Arutyunyan, a former national competitor from Russia, on a full-time basis. Arutyunyan is a two-time U.S. Coach of the Year. He has a long list of athletes he's worked with, including five-time world champion Michelle Kwan, and 2006 Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen. Most recently, Arutyunyan worked with three-time U.S. champion and 2016 U.S. champion Adam Rippon to name a few. "A lot of the success I've had is definitely a credit to him," Chen said of his coach. "I can't do this all by myself."
4. Chen is known as the "Quad King."
Arutyunyan is a jump specialist who utilizes analytics to help his athletes optimize their strength. He landed his first quad — remaining in the air for over half a second and completing four revolutions — when he was 15 years old. Now, he's become heralded for landing them. "Ever since I was a younger skater, I've been working my way to these big jumps," Chen told NBC News. "Once you land a jump, you put it straight in the program. That's the way I've always been doing it." Some people refer to him as the "Quad King," becoming the first skater to land five quadruple jumps in one program at the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championship.
5. He doesn't focus on results.
Now 22 years old, Chen told G.Q. that he was stressed about results at the last Olympics. "When you do that, you're focusing on something that you can't control. It's just going to cause you anxiety and worry and stress," he said. This time, he wants to enjoy the experience focus on himself, things that he can control. But his coach says Chen is more mature and more robust mentally. "Life often tests us, it puts us through examinations, and Nathan gets all sorts of scrutiny from it, too," Arutyunyan told NBC Sports. "But this young man walks out of all such pressing situations as the winner. He behaves like a real man."