After retaining the United States national title with a dazzling performance on Saturday night, Chinese American figure skater Nathan Chen will be representing the United States at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Highlighted by his confident footwork and complex spins, Chen, garbed in his new, all-black Vera Wang attire, successfully pulled off five quadruple jumps in his final routine with the music from “Mao’s Last Dancer,” reports ABC.
Chen, who was born to immigrant Chinese parents in 1999 in Salt Lake City, Utah, began figure skating at age 3, and entered his first competition in 2003.
He would later qualify to compete in the U.S. Junior Nationals at the juvenile and intermediate levels between 2007 to 2009 where he would quickly rise to the top. At the 2007 Junior Nationals, he placed 10th and then improved to third place the following year. At the 2009 Junior Nationals, the skating prodigy won the intermediate men’s silver medal.
At age 10, he became the youngest novice champion in the history of U.S. Figure Skating by winning the national novice title at the 2010 U.S. Championships. His feat would be followed by other record-smashing performances over the next few years.
Chen made history again at the U.S. Championships in 2016 by becoming the first American man to land two quadruple jumps in the short program, and the first man in the world to land four quadruple jumps in a long program.
Unfortunately, Chen sustained an avulsion injury to his left hip during an exhibition performance and had to undergo surgery. He would resume training just a few months later.
In 2017, he won the U.S. title with the highest scores in U.S. Figure Skating history (106.39 in the short program, 212.08 in the free skate, 318.47 overall), delivering another record-breaking routine by being the first person to perform five quadruple jumps in the free skate. He was the youngest U.S. men’s national figure skating champion (17 years old) since 1966.
For his victory on Saturday, Chen edged out his second-place Ross Miner by an impressive 40.72-point margin with a total score of 315.23.
“I still need time to really wrap my head around this,” Chen was quoted as saying. “But this whole season has gone exactly as I wanted it to in terms of all the requirements to make that Olympic team.”
“Honestly at this point in time, it is sort of just checking off that box,” he added. “I still have a lot more to do, but ultimately this is the dream that I’ve wanted for a long, long time. I’ve really strived for it my entire life. And I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to be on that Olympic team.”
Proud of his heritage, Chen expressed his appreciation for the sport that has welcomed Asian Americans with open arms in an interview with Team USA last year.
“I think my parents felt us being a minority a little bit more than I did, and they tried to shelter me from that so I didn’t feel it at all,” Chen said. “As I got older, there were more and more Asian kids at [skating] competitions that I was going to – that felt cool to me.”
Currently, 15 of the top 38 U.S. skaters in the men’s and women’s singles elite program were of Asian background. With his unbeaten record throughout the season, Chen is being touted as the United States’ best hope for a gold medal.
“There are so many good Asian skaters right now,” Chen proudly noted. “Asian kids know now that they can have the possibility to skate. I think that’s really cool for them to have that.”
In fact, Chen will be joined by another talented Asian American skater — 17-year-old Vincent Zhou.
Zhou who finished third place with a score of 273.83 was chosen by the U.S. Figure Skating selection committee along with 28-year-old Adam Rippon to complete the U.S. Figure Skating men’s contingent at the 2018 Olympics.