Nathan Chen became the first Asian American figure skater to win three consecutive men’s titles at the World Figure Skating Championships on Saturday.
The 21-year-old skater is the first American to accomplish this feat since Scott Hamilton.
Since his fifth-place standing at the 2018 Olympics, Chen has become an undefeated champion of worlds, nationals, Skate Americas and the Grand Prix Finals.
“I wouldn’t say this is my best free program ever,” Chen told the Associated Press. “But it’s one I will definitely remember forever and cherish, being able to skate like that and skate this piece here at worlds.”
Chen started out rough on Thursday’s short program by falling on a quad Lutz. By his free skate on Saturday, he executed five quads which NBC Sports analyst Johnny Weir described as “the best I’ve ever seen Nathan Chen.”
“I felt almost a sense of relief, I guess, after the short program, having made a mistake, having been in a position where I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I’m really in a position to vie for first anymore,” Chen told reporters. “So I was just kind of like, you know, ‘I am going to try my best in the long program and whatever happens, happens.’ And it kind of just took away some of the stress.”
He managed to outskate two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu from Japan. Hanyu, who came at the top of the short program, also fell behind Yuma Kagiyama, 17, who placed second.
The Olympic Channel reported Chen said in a roundtable interview that he is still “starstruck” by his opponent, Hanyu.
“He’s won two Olympics. You know, I think that’s bottom line. And I have won zero. So that kind of puts him in a completely different airspace than I’m in,” Chen remarked. “And he’s one of those athletes where when you see him, you’re like a little star struck. Even now, like when I see him, I still get pretty starstruck by seeing him.”
He also noted that despite his initial concerns that the competition might stir up drama between skaters, everyone has been “amicable” and “respectful” of the time that each has dedicated to the sport.
As a son of Chinese immigrants, Chen spoke out on the rise of anti-Asian violence in the United States.
“I’m disgusted by the amount of hate and violence that has occurred [against] Asian Americans in the U.S., it’s just unacceptable,” he said. “It’s really disheartening to see that. But hopefully the more that this is brought to people’s eyes and the more repercussions are being placed upon people that do these things, hopefully [that] will put an end to this soon. But I mean, my heart goes out to all the other victims that have been unjustly attacked. It’s really tough to see as an Asian-American.”
As for the upcoming Winter Olympic Games held in Beijing in 2022, Chen reminded the reporters that he has yet to qualify.
“But at the same time, every competition is different, every competition is challenging, and it has its own challenges for every athlete. I’m excited to take it step by step. I think that with anything, if I try to take things in bites that are too big, I’ll end up choking a little bit,” he said.
Feature Image via NBC Sports