The world champion in figure skating in Saitama was Nathan Chen, a 19-year-old US skater. “Match TV” tells his unusual, powerful story.
Nathan Chen was born May 5, 1999 in Salt Lake City, Utah – in the region of the Rocky Mountains, snow peaks, cold lakes and the 2002 Winter Olympics. He is the son of Chinese immigrants, the youngest of 5 children. Nathan’s parents are ordinary people with modest means, which is somewhat rare for North American skaters.
Nathan began to engage in figure skating at the age of 3 (just in the wake of the Olympics) on his sister’s white girl’s skates. When the skates became small, Nate’s parents turned to the Michael Weiss Foundation, which helps young talented athletes. In the fund, Nathan was allocated $ 200 to buy a new pair.
As Chen grew and progressed, the Weiss Foundation continued to support him. In just 10 years, they transferred about 75 thousand dollars so that Nathan could remain in sports.
Chen often says in an interview that it was the help of the funds that enabled him to become what he became. And he hopes that in the future he will be able to return the investment, helping other talented children from poor families.
Chen’s sports career is closely linked to Russia. His trainers were only Russian specialists. The first coach is Galina Chernysheva.
At 10 years old, the skater came to train for Rafael Harutyunyan. At first he was taken to California from Utah by car, and, like many skaters, Nathan almost lived in the car — he slept, ate and did his homework.
Chen received special training, combining classes in several sports and art.
At the age of 7, he entered the BalletWest Academy in Salt Lake City, where he took several lessons a week for 6 years.
One can only guess how important the ballet played for the harmonious development of his body and the acquisition of choreographic skills.
As Nathan’s programs filled with quadruple jumps, he was forced to give up great ballet. But the long-term accumulated base does not disappear without a trace – it remains in the form of an unfolded toe of the free leg, posture and landing of hands.
In addition to ballet, Chen was involved in gymnastics, and this is not surprising – in American schools, gymnastics, along with swimming, is an integral part of physical education lessons.
Chen jumped his first four-piece sheepskin coat at age 15. After a couple of weeks, the Salchow also obeyed him. The older quad jumps took much more time, strength and health.
After winning the final of the Junior Grand Prix in the 2015/2016 season, Nathan successfully performed at the national championship, becoming the third. But at demonstrations, he injured his hip, which led to surgery and almost six months of rehabilitation.
In the 2016/2017 season, there was a difficult period in relations with the coach, when Nathan almost left Harutyunyan. He went to Canton to Marina Zueva to put in new programs, and stayed there. Under her leadership, he held 2 tournaments – he won the Finland Trophy tournament and took 4th place at the Grand Prix stage in France.
In the second stage in Japan, he was already led by Harutyunyan.
Chen later said in an interview that at a crisis time, he and Harutyunyan could not hear each other. After the irreconcilable contradictions in California, the calm atmosphere at the rink at Zueva seemed to him ideal conditions for training. But the more he was in Canton, the more he realized that he needed Harutyunyan.
By the Olympic season, Chen has become the country’s main hope. He performed 2 quadruple jumps in the short and 5 jumps in the free program, planning to reach the final mark of 8 quads in Pyeongchang.
To roughly understand what pressure of expectations 18-year-old Chen faced at the Olympics, you can watch this short video shot as part of a PR campaign for US athletes before traveling to Korea.
In it, Nathan Chen turns into the “King of the Quads.” Without exception, all American newspapers writing about him expect a medal from him – the first U.S. medal in the men’s singles after Evan Lissachek’s 2010 gold.
In the short Olympic program of the personal tournament, Chen failed completely nothing. This is how the textured collapse looks like – not a single jumping element for a plus. He went out to take off, and became the 17th. Hard experience.
Later, Rafael Harutyunyan will say that the reason for the errors was in the choice of content – to execute flip and lutz in one program was too risky strategically. Chen himself insisted on this content at one of the first official training sessions. Raf had to make a student decision and let him fill his own bumps.
The family plays a huge role for Chen, not in words but in deeds. In the Olympic season, he openly told Harutyunyan that he devotes a year to his family, because he is in an unpaid debt to them for everything that they did for him in sports. This meant that the opinion of a home coaching council would be a priority.