by Liz Leamy
(24 January 2020) Nathan Chen, the 20 year-old Salt Lake City native and quad jumping phenom who, over the past number of years, has been largely responsible for raising the technical bar of figure skating, seems as hungry as ever to claim his fourth consecutive U.S. title at the 2020 Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina next week.
This two-time World champion (in 2018 and 2019) and three-time U.S. titlist (in 2017, 2018 and 2019), who was named the 2019 Male Olympic Athlete of the Year, seems to be on as steadfast an Olympic path as ever as he prepares for the 2020 national showdown. Chen is said to be training his jumps, programs and other technical and artistic elements in exceptional and consistent fashion the past few months.
Chen, who also scored gold at the 2019/2020 International Skating Union Championship Grand Prix Finals last December, is a sophomore at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he manages his schedule as a full-time student and premiere world-class figure skating contender.
Chen, one of five children, is a statistics and computer science major, who, over the past few years, has shown he can handle the challenge of carrying a full study load and training schedule with incredible focus.
For this driven and determined athlete, it seems to be all about achieving a higher standard in every area of his life, which seems to be much of the reason for his tremendous success thus far in his skating career.
“I want to continue pushing myself as long as I can,” said Chen, who has his sights set on the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. “I take things one competition at a time. I have less than two years until the Olympic Games and I want to continue improving myself technically and artistically.”
Chen, whose father is a research scientist and whose mother is a medical translator, is someone who seems to be all about being better, stronger and faster, as is professed in the famous Olympic creed.
In 2003, at age three, Chen first took to the ice, wearing his sister’s white skates, and instantly seemed to feel happy and at home. (In a video from that time period, Chen can be seen performing in a show in which he executes a series of swizzles, crossovers and one-foot glides with much of the same spirit and attack that he approaches his skating now.)
By 2007, at the astonishing age of seven, Chen, who at that point, could execute all of the double jumps through Lutz, qualified for the U.S. Junior Nationals in the juvenile division, where he placed 10th.
The following year, Chen qualified for the 2008 U.S. Junior National podium in the same division and clinched bronze.
In 2009, Chen went on to score his first U.S. title, winning the Intermediate Men’s competition at age nine.
Chen subsequently went on to make history the following season when at age 10 he became the youngest winner to clinch gold in the novice men’s division at the 2010 U.S. Championships in Spokane, Washington.
In 2011, Chen, again competed that season as a novice and claimed his second consecutive title in that division at the 2011 U.S. Championships in Greensboro.
The next year, in 2012, Chen began training with Rafael Arutyunyan, his now longtime coach, and claimed the U.S. junior title.
Two years later, Chen won his second U.S. junior title at the 2014 U.S. Championships in Boston, after having been third in the junior division at the 2013 U.S. Championships the season prior.
In 2015, Chen moved up to the senior category and placed eighth at that year’s U.S. Championships.
By 2016, Chen had landed on the national podium, took bronze behind Adam Rippon and Max Aaron, who were first and second, respectively, at that year’s U.S. Championships.
In 2017, Chen captured his first-ever U.S. title in the Championship division upon knocking out some big and clean quads and a white-hot reputation as one of the sport’s quad kings.
The following two seasons, in 2018 and 2019, Chen continued to stake his claim as one of the premiere men’s skaters, claiming two more consecutive U.S. titles due to his incredible collection of soaring quads.
During this time, Chen also made his name as a premiere contender on the international scene, as he went on to win the 2018 and 2019 World Championships titles, facing off against many formidable contenders, including Yuzuru Hanyu, the renowned 2014 and 2018 Japanese Olympic gold medalist.
For Chen, the driving force behind his extraordinary success over the years has been the fact that his drive to raise his personal athletic bar on a consistent basis.
“In my mind, I would love to continue pushing the jumps,” said Chen in a pre-Nationals teleconference call. “Every competition means a lot to me. It’s an opportunity and right now, I’m just trying to get my job done.”
This season, Chen is skating to the dramatic music of La Boheme for his short and to the soundtrack from the memorable Elton John film ‘Rocket Man’ for his long program, both routines which so far, have gone over very well with both crowds and officials this season.
Although Chen said he has been dealing some repercussions from a cold he had gotten several weeks ago, he is as geared up as ever to compete in Greensboro next week.
“My goal is to just maintain myself and get myself prepared for the second half of the season,” said Chen. “Every year I get to have the experience to adapt to the competitions and regardless of the results, I’m happy to be there to perform and do what I have to do.”