Nathan Chen already won a bronze medal at these PyeongChang Olympics as part of Team USA’s efforts, but his individual medal hunt begins Thursday.Chen wasn’t satisfied with the short program he contributed, so he immediately went downstairs to the practice rink to get in some more work on his jumps. It was his idea, and therapeutic, he said in his press conference in PyeongChang:
“I didn’t even realize I could do that. I looked at the schedule and I was like, ‘Wait, I have practice right now.’ I actually wasn’t sure how much time I had left, but I saw that [training partner] Adam [Rippon] was on the ice. I knew that he was in my group, so I just figured I would just skate until I was told to get off the ice. I got a good 20 minutes in. It was nice to be able to just redo the things that I didn’t do so well in the short program, just to sort of settle my mind and just try to get a bit of extra work in.”He also spent time between the team event and the start of the men’s event training off-site, which he said was additionally beneficial.
Scott Hamilton, 1984 Olympic gold medalist, weighed in on the value of Chen getting his feet wet in the team event before his individual debut.“The team short program, for Nathan, is a blessing,” he said. “You saw his growl in the bow – like grr! That’s how he’s gonna go into his individual event. That growl is gonna be in the beginning of his program instead of at the end. The short program in the team event was a learning experience more than it was a preview of coming attractions.”
Chen admitted his game plan is to learn from his mistakes in the team short heading into his main event.“During the program I was like, this is just part of the plan, okay, it happened, I am going to try and learn from this and I put all of the bad things out there and I can go up from here.”
That’s not normally how he competes, he said. Chen doubled a plan quadruple toe jump, making it invalid, and fell on a triple Axel in the program.“It’s not super customary for me to do in competition but I think I was just a little bit ahead of myself, I need to be a little more present, a little more in the moment and hone in on the technical things I have to think about before the jumps and I think in doing that I will have better results.”
History could be in Chen’s favor in PyeongChang. He won December’s Grand Prix Final and only once has the men’s Grand Prix Final champion not won Olympic gold (2006). If Chen strikes gold, he would be the youngest gold medalist since American Dick Button in 1948.