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Nathan Chen Is Successful by Not Attempting So Laborious to Win

BEIJING — Nathan Chen, the favourite but once more to win the Olympic gold medal in men’s figure skating, is caught between desirous to neglect the 2018 Video games and needing to recollect them.

Earlier than the determine skating competitors began on the Beijing Video games, he stood earlier than reporters and was requested if he had regrets from his Olympic debut, when he uncharacteristically faltered within the brief program and ruined his likelihood of profitable a medal.

“I’ve a reasonably horrible reminiscence,” he mentioned, making it clear that he didn’t need to discuss it along with his second Olympics simply days away.

Chen, 22, was extra prepared to be introspective a couple of week earlier than he left for the Video games. In an hourlong video interview, he described how ending seventeenth within the brief program in Pyeongchang, South Korea, was the worst second in his younger life. But in addition, in some ways, it was one of the best.

It’s practically unattainable to go to the Olympics as a gold medal favourite with out letting that gold medal grow to be all-consuming, and Chen discovered that out the exhausting means, when his obsession with profitable grew to become what he referred to as “his demise.” However after going into Pyeongchang feeling “uptight on a regular basis” with a way of dread that he wouldn’t dwell as much as expectations, this time he’s making an attempt to understand the expertise — win or lose.

Evan Lysacek, the 2010 Olympic champion who typically skates the place Chen trains close to Los Angeles, helped him discover a new method, he mentioned. Chen appreciated that recommendation as a result of he knew Lysacek might empathize with him: he completed fourth on the 2006 Olympics earlier than profitable the gold medal 4 years later.

“He mentioned, win or lose, you’re going to go house and also you’re going to proceed the life that you just had,” Chen mentioned. “And that’s actually very reassuring as a result of I believe that oftentimes you form of dramatize issues and are like, ‘Oh, man, it’s the tip of the world if issues don’t go effectively,’ however actually, no, the world continues to show and issues will return to regular.”

Gaining that perspective, Chen mentioned, helped make him who he’s at present — and for the previous three years he has been the world’s most dominant skater, together with within the brief program on Tuesday when he landed a collection of rocket-launched jumps and gained with a world file 113.97 factors.

Chen is on the cusp of turning into an Olympic champion. The free skate is on Thursday (Wednesday night time in the US).

“Someday between the brief program and the free program 4 years in the past, it allowed me to form of swap views on what was actually essential,” he mentioned.

4 years in the past, Chen had been sucked in and marketed by the Olympic machine. He was an 18-year-old rising star, tabbed as the following nice American Olympian, with sponsors gravitating to him and strain threatening to crush him.

He was featured on Cornflakes bins. Had his photograph on a billboard in Occasions Sq.. The American crew and the world anticipated him to win an Olympic gold medal. The issue was these expectations quickly began to really feel like calls for, and he internalized them.

It grew to become win a gold medal, or bust.

Contemplating that looming strain, it was maybe no shock that he made mistake after mistake within the brief program within the crew occasion, after which did the identical within the males’s singles occasion. The night time he completed seventeenth within the brief program, with the gold medal out of attain, he referred to as his sister Alice for assist.

Nathan, the youngest of the 5 Chen kids, isn’t the kind of individual to share his feelings, Alice mentioned in an interview final month, so he largely listened as she talked and talked. She cried by her phrases.

“I don’t need you to suppose this defines you as an individual or what you deliver to the game,” she recalled telling him. However a lot of the dialog was about something however skating; she needed to distract him from his disappointment.

“It was probably the most emotional expertise I’ve ever had in my life,” she mentioned, explaining that the entire Chen household was devastated when Nathan didn’t skate his greatest. They knew what he had sacrificed to get to the highest of the game.

Following his sisters into the rink after they had been determine skaters, Nathan took up skating at 3, and was a fan favourite from the beginning. Alice Chen remembers him at his first competitors, when he wore a blue velvet swimsuit and the one leap was a tiny hop. His household got here to observe. The gang went wild.

Paying for his classes was not simple for her dad and mom, who got here to the US from China within the late Nineteen Eighties, Alice Chen mentioned. There have been occasions their mom would drive Nathan 10 or 12 hours to a contest as a result of it was too costly to fly. Generally they slept of their automotive as a result of they couldn’t afford a lodge. These experiences helped mildew Nathan, she mentioned, however the household by no means made him really feel as if he owed them something.

They solely needed to see him joyful, she mentioned, and on the 2018 Video games he wasn’t.

“I hope I helped him decompress,” Alice Chen mentioned of her late-night phone dialog with Nathan. “The subsequent morning he wakened a very totally different individual.”

The brand new Nathan Chen bounced again just like the Olympic determine skating world had by no means seen earlier than, hitting six quadruple jumps to win the free skate and rise to fifth place. He has had 4 years to course of what he went by.

For months after the 2018 Winter Video games, he toured with Stars on Ice earlier than enrolling at Yale College, the place he skated alone on the campus ice rink or skilled at one other rink about 20 minutes away. He met different Yale athletes, made pals on the hockey crew, discovered how one can examine and sustain with college students who, he mentioned, “had been all virtuosos of their fields.” In brief, he found a life outdoors skating.

Now on a depart of absence from college, Chen trains with the coach Rafael Arutyunyan and a bunch of different elite skaters, together with Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic and Mariah Bell, an American nationwide champion. Each are competing in Beijing.

Adam Rippon, a 2018 Olympian who helps coach Bell, observed an enormous change in Chen.

“I believe it took him specializing in college and dealing each a part of his mind to lastly understand that skating was not life or demise, and that perspective took a few of the strain off,” Rippon mentioned. “I can see him moving into his mild and proudly owning who he’s. He’s extra assured, completely assured in himself now.”

In the course of the pandemic, Chen, Brezina and Bell constructed a tiny coaching bubble and frolicked with one another off the ice, too, enjoying video games like Pictionary and Playing cards Towards Humanity on weekend nights and consuming dinners collectively at Brezina’s home, with Brezina’s spouse, Danielle, who’s a former skater, and their 2-year-old daughter, Naya.

“Nathan is the primary within the rink and the final one to depart and likewise wins all of our recreation nights,” Bell mentioned with amusing. “However we nonetheless love him.”

The Brezinas received to know Chen effectively through the pandemic. They might see him watching a college lecture on his iPad at 3 times the traditional pace as a result of he processed data so rapidly, and would marvel at him as he tried to show their daughter how one can play guitar and piano on kid-sized devices, however in fact, as a perfectionist, he needed to tune them first.

“It was so attention-grabbing to learn the way his thoughts labored,” Michal Brezina, a four-time Olympian, mentioned. “He’s good at every little thing.”

Brezina mentioned Chen had matured loads since 2018 and is much much less fixated on profitable.

“I believe it helps mature you whenever you discover ways to cope with one thing that doesn’t go the way in which you deliberate,” Brezina mentioned. “It teaches you that you’re human.”

Chen has let that sink in. He could seem invincible now, however he is aware of that would change in a second. And he’s OK with that.

“Finally, I believe inside my profession I’ve discovered that you just study probably the most out of your failures, and that’s how one can develop one of the best,” he mentioned. “The final word objective is simply to have the ability to look again in your profession and say, ‘Hey, you realize, that was nice.’”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/09/sports activities/olympics/nathan-chen-skating.html Nathan Chen Is Successful by Not Attempting So Laborious to Win

Fry Electronics Team

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