Q&A with Nathan Chen
Nathan Chen is the 2017 U.S. national champion and gold medalist at that year's Four Continents Championships. He was born in Salt Lake City, the host of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Tell us about your family.
I have a very close family. I have four older siblings: two brothers and two sisters. My father was going to university/ worked in Salt Lake City and my mom worked part-time as a medical interpreter while taking care of us kids. My mom spent most of her free time driving me around, spending time on the ice, and watching me skate. My family and parents were very influential in my skating career.
Are you a first-generation American? Where does your family come from?
I am a first generation American of Chinese decent. My parents were both born and raised in China and moved to the U.S. in their 20s.
Do you speak any other languages?
I only speak English, however, I can understand some Chinese.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
My parents always enforce the idea of never giving up upon all of my siblings and me, and I think that's something that will stick with me my whole life.
Do you have an Olympic role model?
Almost every Olympian is extremely inspiring. I really loved watching sport legends like Michael Phelps and Apolo Ohno race.
Who do you consider your rivals? Is it friendly or contentious?
I think the top six men in the world are all my biggest rivals. Everyone has different things that they excel at and we are all extremely strong. We are all very friendly with one another, but when it comes down to competition we all just need to do the best we can do.
Did you play any other sports growing up?
I used to do gymnastics and hockey, but now I only focus on skating.
Do you still follow any of those sports on TV?
I love watching NHL, Formula One and MotoGP. I have a lot of NHL teams that I support like the Kings, Ducks, Bruins, and Blackhawks. I really like Lewis Hamilton, and Cal Crutchlow.
Are there any Summer Olympic sports you think you’d like to try?
I would love to learn how to box.
What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?
I think it's sort of expected, but most athletes prepping for the Olympics go through extensive planning out of the weight room and/or training venue where they plot out the data and plan out the dates and time periods to train hard or recover.
What was it like to be seriously injured and come back from that?
I was injured after the U.S. championships [in 2016]. This injury required immediate surgery and took me off the ice for around five months. This took me off the Worlds team, so it was mentally difficult. Fortunately, this was not a career-ending injury or an injury that needed years to heal. I had a great support team behind me that helped me every step of the way back onto the ice and seemingly, in no time I was back to full training.
Describe your perfect day.
A day by the beach, relaxing with friends and surfing. Ending the night with a nice dinner and then a big soft bed to sleep in.
Do you enjoy traveling? What has been the most special place you’ve visited?
I love to travel. I really enjoyed Spain and Thailand due to the wonderful sights, food and people.
What are some of your hobbies when you get time away from the ice?
I just picked up photography, and I like to go out to the water or various events and take pictures of my friends and the scenery.
When was the first time you saw figure skating? Did you ever think you could make it to the Olympics?
I remember watching figure skating on TV during the 2002 Olympics, and I remember going to the rink and pretending to be in the Olympics. I've always wanted to be in the Olympics but, I always made sure to not think too far ahead and take things one step at a time.
What’s something intense about your sport that people don’t normally see? What’s the hardest part of figure skating?
I think it’s quite funny how intense and passionate coaches get about skating and people don't get to see the behind the scenes of the skating. Technique is very difficult and it’s something you have to consistently work on and alter to best fit the job that's needed to be done.
What’s your biggest fear on the ice?
I think my biggest fear, like most skaters, is making a large mistake in program.
What’s your biggest fear off the ice?
Spiders are my biggest fear.
Are you superstitious?
Not so much. I put right skate first and left skate second. This is honestly more so out of habit than anything. Otherwise I don't have anything.
What’s your favorite animal?
Otters are my favorite animal, they're honestly adorable.
Do you have a celebrity crush?
Emma Watson. I love her work and also the things she stands for outside of her acting.
What are your favorite movies?
I really enjoyed the Harry Potter series, Whiplash, and American Sniper. I love Marvel and DC movies as well.
What do you like to watch on TV?
I'm a huge fan of Scrubs, How I Met Your Mother, and Parks and Recreation.
What’s your favorite social media platform?
I'm most active on Instagram and have started to get a little more involved with Twitter. I always have trouble finding stuff to post, but I love to explore social media and see what other athletes and friends are up to.
What’s your favorite meme right now?
Memes are actually my favorite! There are so many good ones. The Arthur fist meme always gets me.