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Nathan Chen’s secrets to championship success: stop thinking about the gold, do not bring smartphone

Nathan Chen
  • Olympic figure skater Nathan Chen has revealed two choices he made that helped him win the gold medal at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

  • Chen, 22, said he shifted his mentality from “I’m here to win” to focusing on being present, regardless of medal placement.

  • Chen also left his smartphone at home before going to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and instead brought his electric guitar to help him clear his mind.

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Chinese American Olympic figure skater Nathan Chen has revealed two choices he made that helped him win a gold medal at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics earlier this month.

Chen, 22, switched up how he approached competitions through his years of experience on the ice, including shifting his mentality to not focus on winning, he told CNBC Make It.

Whether I won, whether I lost, I [wanted] to gain as much as I could [from the experience] that didn’t revolve around what sort of placement I got,” Chen said.

Chen’s shift in mentality helped him take home the gold, set a new world record and beat his Olympic rival, Japan’s “Ice Prince” Yuruzu Hanyu, on Feb. 10.

Chen noted to CNBC that it took a two-step process to ultimately achieve what he had worked towards for years. 

The first included leaning on the people surrounding him like his parents, fellow skaters, team, skating coach Rafael Arutyunyan, a mental performance coach and a group of choreographers and trainers. 

The Utah native only discovered the second step while riding a bus on his way to the ice rink in Beijing. Chen noted that while looking out the window, he realized how some people were going about their day as he was heading into the biggest event of his life. At that moment, Chen said he shifted his focus from targeting the top of the podium to being grateful for the opportunity to compete at the biggest sports event.

[It’s about] coming in with gratitude, with respect for what you do, respect for what all the other athletes do,” he said. “Every single one of us deserves to win. Every single one of us deserves to have these opportunities. And ultimately, it’ll just come down to how much we just enjoy the experience.”

Chen also shared he went to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics without his phone. According to the Wall Street Journal, the figure skater thought that not bringing his phone would help him escape the cognitive drain brought by “the urge to scroll for hours through social media.”

So instead of spending time browsing through social media, Chen decided to bring his electric guitar to the Winter Games. Playing the instrument reportedly helped the athlete “tap into the rhythm of music,” a key element in figure skating, and help him clear his mind, NBC Sports reported via Forbes.

In the book “Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention—and How to Think Deeply Again,” author Johann Hari explains smartphones and apps keep modern users distracted, something Chen could not afford while competing on the biggest sporting stage.

Whenever you are tempted to put your phone down, the site keeps drip-feeding you the kind of material that it has learned, from your past behavior, keeps you scrolling,” Hari writes in the book.


Feature Image via We Are the Fab 5

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