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How Nathan Chen Psyched Himself Up To Land The Olympic Figure Skating Gold

Nathan Chen at the US Nationals
(Image credit: NBC Sports)

Nathan Chen is officially an Olympic gold medalist. After his short program broke a figure skating world record, his endless array of quadruple jumps landed him the top prize. How did Nathan Chen psych himself up to become a champion? Here’s a hint: he didn’t come to win. 

In an interview with CNBC Make It, Nathan Chen discussed his strategy for staying positive during the 2022 Winter Olympics -- even as other figure skating drama came up. Even though he ended up snagging the gold, he didn’t lead with that mindset. Nathan Chen said: 

Whether I won, whether I lost, I [wanted] to gain as much as I could [from the experience] that didn’t revolve around what sort of placement I got.

It may seem like a shot in the foot, but Nathan Chen’s explorative outlook may have actually helped him succeed. After all, it was forecast that Nathan Chen would take home the gold medal at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, but he performed poorly during his short program that kept him off the podium. It’s possible that the high expectations ended up damaging his chances. When 2022 rolled around and he got another opportunity to go for the gold, Nathan Chen opted to focus not on winning, but on learning as much as he could and enjoying his time on the ice.

As successful as Nathan Chen’s new perspective has been, it wasn’t born overnight. In the four years since the 2018 Olympics, he’s worked with his coach Rafael Arutyunyan to enhance his skills and perfect his routines. He also enlisted a mental performance coach to help rewire his brain. These coaches are trained to teach athletes how to mentally prepare for regular competition with exercises designed to improve focus and decrease performance anxiety. 

And if the results of the 2022 Olympics were any indication, Nathan Chen’s hard work paid off. After near-flawless executions of his routines, one of which was set to a rockin’ ‘Rocket Man’ remix, he earned a final score of 332.60. It was over twenty points higher than the total of Japanese silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama, who scored 310.05. That being said, Nathan Chen wasn’t looking to dominate the competition. He’d rather focus on what he’s grateful for. He said: 

[It’s about] coming in with gratitude, with respect for what you do, respect for what all the other athletes do. Every single one of us deserves to win. Every single one of us deserves to have these opportunities. And ultimately, it’ll just come down to how much we just enjoy the experience.

Congratulations to Nathan Chen and all of the incredible figure skaters that competed in this year’s ceremony. The 2022 Winter Olympics have officially ended, but you can still rewatch your favorite events with your Peacock Premium subscription or relive some viral moments (like a cameraman being hit with skis) online. You can also sneak a peek at more upcoming TV premiere dates to occupy you now that the Olympics are over. 

Actor, singer, and occasional dancer. Likes: fashion, books, old buildings. Dislikes: cilantro, the NJ Turnpike, sneaker wedges.