The deafening strike of a slap shot echoes throughout the ice hockey stadium. Flakes of ice speckle the arena’s frost-bitten air as the blades of a bobsled slice down the narrow course. Anxiety-inducing flips give rise to hushed gasps among snowboarding spectators. But beyond these defining scenes of the Winter Olympics, only one event truly requires a graceful balance of both athleticism and artistry—figure skating.
22-year-old Nathan Chen from Salt Lake City, Utah made history on February 10th, 2022. As the 2017 Four Continents champion, a three-time World champion, three-time Grand Prix Final champion, and six-time U.S. national champion, Chen added yet another international achievement to the list: the Olympic Gold medal.
Figure skating consists of two segments—the short program and the long program (also known as the free skate). The short program, as the name suggests, is shorter in duration, lasting only a maximum of 2 minutes and 40 seconds. In the short program, the required elements include 3 different jumps, 3 spins, and one-step sequence. On the other hand, the free skate is about 4 minutes and 40 seconds and requires skaters to perform 7 jumps, 3 spins, 1 step sequence, and 1 choreographed sequence throughout their program.
In 2018, 18-year-old Nathan Chen entered the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics as the favorite to win the gold in figure skating, but he shocked the world by failing to land any of his jumps cleanly in the short program. The pressure of his Olympic debut had ended his winning streak and put him in 17th place. He then redeemed himself in the long program through a historic skate which consisted of a groundbreaking 6 quadruple jumps and earned him a personal record in the free skate. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to put him on the podium, but the ‘Quad King’ rose up 12 spots and settled for fifth.
His performance at the Beijing 2022 Olympics was a different story. Chen skated beautifully to “La Boheme,” not only breaking his personal best with a score of 218.63, but shattering the world record for the short program with a score of 113.97.
Nathan Chen finished his free skate strong, skating to an Elton John medley, including songs like ‘Rocketman’ and ‘Bennie and the Jets.’ Chen missed the opportunity to break his personal record by performing a single flip rather than his planned triple flip at the end of the routine. Despite this, Chen ended with a total score of 332.60, only 2.7 points short of his own world record. This is the first time the US Men’s Figure Skating team has brought home a Gold medal since Evan Lysacek in 2010.
With consistency and artistry, Chen won by a huge margin of nearly 22 points in a sport that can be decided by decimals; his performance at Pyeongchang is now only a distant memory.
Silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama and bronze medalist Shoma Uno, both of Japan, received a score of 310.05 and 293.00 respectively.
Chen’s teammate Vincent Zhou, another strong medal contender, tested positive for COVID-19 a few days prior to the short program and withdrew from the competition. The third representative from the US, 27-year-old Jason Brown, placed sixth overall with a score of 281.24.