by Liz Leamy
Nathan Chen, the talented, fiercely driven two-time U.S. champion, is at the helm of the 2018 American men’s Olympic figure skating contingent, a group which ought to certainly do the country proud.
Chen, the 2017 U.S. champion and 2017/18 International Skating Union Grand Prix Final gold medalist, is set on firing out his skills at full throttle in PyeongChang in a quest for the gold medal in the men’s event, slated to be held Thursday, February 15th and Friday, February 16th.
In this much-anticipated event, the 18 year-old Salt Lake City native is planning to execute his famous collection of quads, including a flip, Lutz, Salchow and toe loop, a feat that has effectively managed to serve as a catalyst for elevating the technical bar of the sport these past few seasons.
In PyeongChang, Chen will face off against some of the other top-seeded world contenders on the ISU leaderboard who are also illustrious members of the multi-quad club.
This group includes Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, the 2014 Olympic champion and two-time World titlist (in 2014 and 2017); Shoma Uno, the 2017 Japanese World silver medalist and 2017/18 ISU Grand Prix silver medalist; Javier Fernandez of Spain, the 2015 and 2016 World champion and Mikhail Kolyada, the reigning Russian gold medalist who placed fourth at the 2016 World Championships.
For Chen, it’s ultimately all about being his best, whether he is at the rink practicing or at an event competing.
“Training’s been going great and I’m focusing on [the fact] that it’ll be the same as any other practice or competition,” said Chen, who trains with Rafael Arutyunyan. “I’m really excited to be there.”
In the men’s event, Chen will be joined by his fellow teammates, Adam Rippon, the 2016 U.S. champion and Vincent Zhou, the 17 year-old 2018 U.S. bronze medalist, who are also expected to put out top-rate programs and are both eager to compete in PyeongChang.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to show the world the kind of skater I am,” said Adam Rippon, who is a Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania native. “I want to do that to the best of my ability.”
For Rippon, 28, it’s also about staying present in the moment.
“I want to be present and not get ahead of myself,” said Rippon, who, like Chen, also trains in Lakewood, California with Rafael Arutyunyan. (He also works with Derrick Delmore.) “I’m prepared to do my best.”
Rippon said he is very much looking forward to the whole Olympic experience in PyeongChang, especially the prospect of getting on the ice to represent his country.
“I’m so looking forward to taking my guards off and stepping on Olympic ice for the first time. It’ a moment I’ve been dreaming of my whole life,” said Rippon, adding that he’s also looking forward to getting his U.S. Olympic Team uniform and walking in the Opening Ceremonies.
Vincent Zhou, who trains in Riverside, California with Tammy Gambill and Tom Zakrajsek and Christy Krall in Colorado Springs, is also elated about competing at the Olympics.
“I am unbelievably excited, the Olympics are something that are truly special,” said Zhou, who is also the 2017 U.S. silver medalist and 2017 World Junior titlist. “Training has been going well. I’m just going to try my best to skate the way I train and just take it one element at a time.”
Certainly, this approach seems to work for this talented teenager, especially in considering his impressive technical acumen and ought to serve him well in PyeongChang.
“I just try to tell myself it’s just like training [out there] and connect back to the great number of repetitions I’ve done in practice,” said Zhou. “That really helps me in the moment.”
Zhou, like his fellow teammates, is also thrilled to be part of the whole Olympic experience.
“I’m just going to try my best to enjoy the experience,” he said. “I hope to meet [other] athletes, see some other sports and just have a great time.”