The transformative second of Nathan Chen’s figure-skating profession got here barely 24 hours after its biggest disappointment.
At the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where he was a favourite to win gold, Chen skated a disastrous quick program that left him in seventeenth place midway by way of the competitors. Knowing he was out of rivalry for a medal, Chen delivered a shocking efficiency the following day, touchdown six quadruple jumps as he received the lengthy program and completed fifth over all.
Since that day 35 months in the past, Chen, 21, has received each competitors he has entered, claiming two world championships and three nationwide titles, together with his fifth straight on Sunday in Las Vegas.
No American man had received that many consecutive nationwide championships since Dick Button, a two-time Olympic champion, claimed seven in a row from 1946 to 1952.
Even Brian Boitano and Scott Hamilton, the fascinating Olympic champions of the Eighties, managed solely 4 in a row.
Hamilton, now a tv analyst, remembered seeing Chen instantly after his lengthy program on the 2018 Olympics. “I asked him: ‘What changed between the short and the long?’” Hamilton stated. “He said, ‘I just decided I didn’t give a crap.’”
Chen has conceded that he had been rattled within the quick program. As he regarded towards the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, he stated, he understood the hazards of caring an excessive amount of about changing into an Olympic champion.
“It’s always been a dream of mine,” Chen stated on Sunday, including: “Easier said than done. I thought that I had a chance in 2018 and that didn’t happen and I’m able to live with that.”
Chen’s closest rival is Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, the 2014 and 2018 Olympic gold medalist. They have not confronted every other since December 2019, however they’re each anticipated to compete on the world championships in Stockholm in late March, assuming the occasion just isn’t canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Sunday in Las Vegas, Chen made a uncommon hit upon the opening soar of his program, a quadruple Lutz, however completed with out one other hitch and received by a exceptional margin of 30.90 factors.
“With the way that he wins, and by the margins he’s winning by right now, it’s really incredible,” stated Hamilton, who had an unbeaten streak of his personal from October 1980 to March 1984. “I don’t know of anyone else that’s doing that by those margins. I don’t think anybody anticipated that could happen.”
Yet on the finish of his program on Sunday, Chen hinted at disappointment, placing his palms on his knees and muttering to himself.
“I was a little timid today,” he stated. “It wasn’t really exactly the skate I wanted to have.”
For Zhou, Sunday’s end was one thing of a victory. A yr in the past, Zhou stated, he was simply returning to skating after struggling to stability his dedication to the game with freshman lessons at Brown University. “Things are going in the right direction,” he stated. “Last year’s nationals I was barely able to do anything.”
Chen is on a depart of absence from Yale after finishing two years there, while coaching sufficient to maintain his profitable streak alive.
“I feel like when I’m at school, my life is a little bit more fulfilling,” stated Chen, who’s now coaching in Irvine, Calif. “Not to say that skating isn’t fulfilling. I love, love, love what I do.”
But he added that in school, “I really like the aspect that everyone is there trying to find their own passions, trying to discover who they are, and you get to be a part of that as well.”
Chen stated that approaching Button’s legacy “means the world.”
“Dick is a true skating icon,” he continued, “and it just feels incredible to be trying to chase something that someone like that has done. I’m nowhere near the level he was at, but it’s just cool to be able to be even mentioned in his sort of realm of legendness.”
Memories of the 2018 Olympic short program apparently do not haunt Chen.
“I think about it sometimes in aspect of what went wrong,” he said. “It’s not something I spend a lot of mental real estate on.”
Yet he is looking forward to being in Beijing next year.
“Of course I would love to be able to win the next Olympics,” Chen said, “but if that doesn’t happen, it’s not like my legacy or who I am is ultimately diminished.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting.