Nathan Chen has literally taken figure skating to new heights, becoming the first skater to land five quadruple jumps (including the first quad flip in the Olympic Winter Games) in one program and becoming the first skater to ever attempt six quads in one routine. He did both of these on the sport’s biggest stage – at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Nathan’s performance vaulted him from 17th place after the short program to 5th place overall – an astounding leap in the standings. He cemented his status in the sport as the “Quad King.” Nathan’s incredibly demanding program registered the highest score in the free skate (215.08 points), beating the score of eventual Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu by 8.91 points.
Nathan left PyeongChang with one of the most memorable performances of the Winter Games. In addition, he also earned an Olympic bronze medal as part of Team USA in the Olympic Team Event.
Even though Nathan was disappointed he did not skate better in the earlier rounds of the Olympic competition, he was happy to rally in the free skate and prove his determination.
“I literally had nothing to lose,” Nathan told reporters afterward. “I had already made a bunch of mistakes. If I make a couple of mistakes in the long, so be it. I just decided to go for it. Definitely, there was a lot about redemption,” he added. “Honestly, I just wanted to leave here satisfied with what I have done, and I definitely am.”
Nathan, who was born in Salt Lake City, home of the 2002 Winter Olympics, had always dreamed about competing in the Olympic Games. He was even interviewed on TV at a young age talking about skating in 2018. He started skating when he was just three years old and has made a rapid rise in the sport.
Nathan spent many years building up to this moment in time. He won two national titles at the novice level (he became the youngest national novice champion at the age of 10) and captured two more national titles at the junior level before moving up to the senior ranks. Now at the top, he has made his presence well known.
At the 2016 U.S. Championships in St. Paul, Minnesota, he became the first U.S. skater to land two quads in a short program. Then he closed out the event by landing four quads in the free skate. Nathan’s jumping prowess helped him enter the record books as the previous record number of quads landed in a long program was three. Nathan was not even a year old when that record had been set.
Nathan suffered a hip injury at the 2016 Exhibition that required surgery. He spent five months in rehabilitation at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Nathan feels that this recovery made him mentally and physically stronger. He proved it with his 2016 Grand Prix Final Silver Medal performance in Marseilles, France. Nathan became the youngest and the first U.S. men’s medalist in the Grand Prix Final since in 2009.
At the 2017 U.S. Championships in Kansas City, Nathan earned a record-breaking score of 106.39 in the short program, setting a new U.S. record by more than six points. He ignited the crowd with a record five clean quadruple jumps in the free skate, sending a message to the best skaters in the world that he had indeed emerged as the new quad king. Nathan’s free skate total of 212.08 and overall score of 318.47 (both U.S. records) helped him become the youngest U.S. men's champion in more than five decades.
Nathan won every competition he entered leading up to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, earning gold medals in both of his international Grand Prix events and the Grand Prix Final. Nathan defended his U.S. crown at the 2018 U.S. Championships in San Jose, CA and was selected to compete in his first Olympic Games.
Although he is best known for his technical prowess, Nathan is more than just a jumping machine. He has worked with some of the most noted choreographers in the sport to improve his artistic side of the skating. This season, he enlisted Canadian world champion ice dancer Shae-Lynn Bourne to craft his short program and Lori Nichol, Hall of Fame choreographer, to create his free skate. Nathan also has a strong background in ballet, having trained at the renowned Ballet West Academy.
Nathan is most at home in an ice rink, and it makes sense given his family’s passion for anything on ice. His oldest brother, Tony, played hockey and reached the U18 Midget level. His second-oldest brother, Colin, also played hockey. Both of Nathan’s sisters took up figure skating. Not only has he become a talented figure skater but he also was a strong hockey player for many years. For years, Nathan competed in both figure skating and hockey. He initially wanted to be a goalie but then switched to playing forward. He played hockey while simultaneously training in figure skating until a few years ago when figure skating won the battle of the blades.
Off the ice, Nathan enjoys playing guitar, biking and long boarding along the California beaches.
At 18 years old, Nathan has already made a name for himself in the sport. However, his work has just begun, and he hopes to continue setting new records and pushing figure skating to new heights.