New Olympic champion Nathan Chen the 'Quad King' and 'Rocket Man' | Inquirer Sports

New Olympic champion Nathan Chen the ‘Quad King’ and ‘Rocket Man’

/ 07:27 PM February 10, 2022

USA's Nathan Chen competes in the men's single skating free skating of the figure skating event during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing on February 10, 2022. (

USA’s Nathan Chen competes in the men’s single skating free skating of the figure skating event during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing on February 10, 2022. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

Three-time figure skating world champion and now Olympic gold medallist Nathan Chen strapped on his first pair of skates aged three after watching his two older brothers play ice hockey.

His parents, Chinese immigrants Hetty Wang and Chen Zhidong, got him figure skates instead — and changed the course of the sport in the process.

The 22-year-old Chen on Thursday upstaged reigning champion Yuzuru Hanyu at the Beijing Games to claim the only major prize that had eluded him, an Olympic gold medal.

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Chen’s route to China, where he still has relatives, was a story of determination and learning from disappointment.

“Even if a great skate happens or a bad skate happens, I don’t think wholesale changes should occur,” Chen said before winning Olympic gold.

“Stick to your strengths, stick to what you know how to do, keep pushing forward.”

Chen became the first skater to hit five different quadruple-spin jumps in competition, landing a quad toe loop, Salchow, flip, loop and Lutz.

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The number and variety of quad jumps Chen can work into a routine brings a dynamic that few rivals can match, provided Chen performs them with his typical near-flawless precision.

High above the rink, Chen soars with a power equal to his flamboyant style and showmanship when his skates dig into the ice. Together, they have drawn applause from fans and high marks from judges.

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elebrates during the venue ceremony of the men's single figure skating event during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing on February 10, 2022.

Gold medalist USA’s Nathan Chen celebrates during the venue ceremony of the men’s single figure skating event during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing on February 10, 2022. (Photo by WANG Zhao / AFP)

At the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, Chen helped the US take a team bronze medal, but struggled in his short program and was 17th before delivering an unprecedented six quad jumps in his free skate which helped him finish fifth overall.

After that experience, Chen won his next 13 competitions over more than three years, including three consecutive world championships in 2018, 2019 and 2021, after Covid-19 wiped out the 2020 event.

That win streak was snapped last October at Skate America, when Chen settled for third behind countryman Vincent Zhou and Japan’s Shoma Uno.

Chen responded with victories at Skate Canada and the 2022 US championships, claiming his sixth national crown — the longest run since Dick Button won his seventh straight title in 1952.

After starting the season with a free skate to Mozart, Chen said the program felt “a little off” and noted, “There are other program I feel a little bit more connected to.”

Chen’s a rocket, man

On Thursday, he performed to “Rocket Man” by Elton John and lived up to his nickname “Quad King” in a routine in which he landed five quadruple jumps, to rapturous cheers from the Beijing crowd.

“I love this program. It’s a lot of fun to perform,” Chen said prior to his heroics in the Chinese capital.

Chen’s coach is the Armenian-born Rafael Arutyunyan, who has trained the young skater in suburban Los Angeles for a decade.

“He has been pushing me every single day,” Chen once said. “A lot of the success I’ve had is definitely a credit to him. I can’t do this all by myself.”

Arutyunyan was on Chen’s lips once more in the immediate aftermath of his Olympic triumph.

“I would not have been able to make it without all the support of friends and family,” he said.

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“And of course Rafael, I’m so happy for him as well.”

TAGS: Beijing 2022, Nathan Chen, Winter Olympics

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