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Nathan Chen Has Whole New Appreciation for Skating Heading into the 2021 World Championships

by Liz Leamy

(20 March 2021)  Nathan Chen, the tough and ultra-talented five-time U.S. champion and two-time World titlist, is as geared up as ever to get back in the ring once again at the 2021 World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden, where he is looking to once again, do his usual job of putting out two solid back-to-back short and long programs.

Chen, 21, said he is excited about the prospect of being able to compete at this celebrated annual global event, slated to be held March 22-28 at the Ericcson Globe Arena, where he will face off against some of the sport’s other top contenders, including Yuzuru Hanyu, the two-time Japanese Olympic Champion and two-time World titlist, among numerous others.

“It’s always a big honor to compete [with Yuzuru Hanyu] and it’s an opportunity,” said Chen in a pre-Worlds teleconference Zoom media call last week. “He’s the benchmark of what skating looks like and I’m super thrilled to have this opportunity.”

For Chen, competitions are an experience he said he always looks forward to as they serve of a place of so many variables, particularly where he always learns something.

“As an athlete I think we want every opportunity to compete. You learn so much at competitions,” said Chen. “As you do more competitions, you have more variables thrown at you with things like blades or costumes and being at competitions teaches me all the things that are right leading up to the [next one].”

Referencing the whole competition experience during this historic and unprecedented pandemic period, Chen advocates the importance of safety and following CDC protocol, noting the terrific and effective manner in which U.S. Figure Skating conducted this year’s U.S. Championships and Guaranteed Rate Skate America, both of which were held in at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

Chen said he is confident this year’s Worlds will also be handled with the same level of safety and conscientiousness regarding CDC protocols.

“I believe everyone is being responsible about taking this [very] seriously and I’m looking forward to being there,” said Chen.

At this year’s Worlds, there will not be any members of the audience present as a means to ensure optimal safety for the athletes, coaches, officials and other individuals who will be there. Skaters, at the same time, are only permitted to have one coach there as another measure to insure safety for everyone.

For Chen, the prospect of being out on the ice with other skaters at competitions is always a good thing.

“I definitely like to communicate and hang out with other people at competitions,” said Chen.

Chen said during some of his down time in Las Vegas, he and some of the other skaters would hang out in the parking lot area, socializing while wearing masks and following CDC guidelines, staying within six feet apart or so from one another.

“Everyone was very responsible and even outdoors, people were wearing their masks diligently,” he said.

Chen, who clinched his fifth consecutive U.S. title last January, is planning to showcase a similar technical library at Worlds as he did in Las Vegas.

“I’ll probably run a similar play,” said Chen.

In looking ahead at the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games, Chen said it’s all about evolving and proving himself for that U.S. Olympic team.

“I’m really looking forward to doing competitions leading up to that,” said Chen, adding he still always goes into competitions as though he needs to “prove that he needs a spot for that team.”

This past year, with so much time having been dedicated to training due to the pandemic, Chen spent a great deal of time working on further strengthening his skating fundamentals as well as his focus, mindset and perspective.

“This whole period of time is very unconventional and has given me time to focus on the basics and also to think,” said Chen. “Having more time especially to work on the basics with Rafael (Arutyunyan, his coach), I think it helps skaters to feel more confident going into competitions.”

Chen, who has been training full time with Arutyunyan in Artesia, California this past year, said he’s also gotten a whole new renewed outlook on his skating from having gone through this unprecedented time.

“Having spent more time on mindfulness has given me more peace,” said Chen. “[I see] how lucky I am, how fortunate I am to be in this sport and I have this new perspective.”

Certainly, these are powerful and profound words that Chen ought to bring with him to Stockholm next week, something that will invariably be reflected in his skating.