The limelight has dimmed, allowing Nathan Chen to, at last, take a few deep breaths and get back to being a normal teenager eager for the next phase of his promising road ahead. It’s been three months since the 19-year-old figure skating phenom from Salt Lake City stormed into the 2018 Olympic Winter Games with the highest of expectations as a primetime media darling.
As quickly and ruthlessly as the Games can take hold, the grip loosens just as fast.
That has allowed Chen — who finished fifth overall in the men’s figure skating competition in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February, then won the figure skating World Championships in March — to finally map out what’s ahead. Currently, he’s on tour with close friends and several fellow Olympians on Stars on Ice, which swings by Utah Wednesday evening at the Maverik Center in West Valley City.
And in a couple month’s time, he’ll be packing up life near Los Angeles, Calif., to move east for the first time in his life. Chen recently decided to attend Yale University in New Haven, Conn., where he’ll be tasked with not only keeping up with the world’s elite figure skaters next Grand Prix season, but he’ll also face a crash course to an Ivy League education.
“It’ll definitely be different,” Chen said, “but I’m definitely ready for it.”
STARS ON ICE
When • Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Where • Maverik Center
Last season as he dominated Grand Prix events overseas, he was sorting through the rigorous college application process. Just before winning his second straight U.S. championship in January, he was utilizing some rare, stress-free time to write as many seven to eight cohesive application essays. That was after cramming for the SAT and ACT exams while prepping for the Olympics.
“Most of the times we’re looking at our phones, watching Netflix or something,” Chen said, “so I’d just be [write essays] instead.”
Chen didn’t divulge how many schools he applied to, but he said nearly half were in California, which presented good options to stay in Lakewood, Calif., a suburb of Long Beach, and continue to train with coach Rafael Arutunian. But he wanted a school like Yale. The school’s reps were actually among the first to reach out to Chen when he started his unique process of trying to pick a school for the next four years.
He’s already started mapping potential routes in terms of his major. It’ll likely be statistics, obviously fitting for the high-flying, history-making skating talent, who in Pyeongchang, set a record in the sport by landing six quadruple jumps in one program. Chen also said pre-med might eventually be part of the conversation, too.
As is required, Chen has started scouting out local rinks around Yale’s campus, and ironically enough, there are a few that have open skate sessions during the day that will accommodate his academic schedule in his first semester in New Haven. As late summer turns to fall, Chen will have to strike that balance between class, studies and time on the ice ice, but luckily the international competitions line up fairly well, he said, with the school’s recesses and breaks in schedule.
“All that combined,” he said, “will definitely allow me to live a pretty normal skating schedule.”
Stepping out onto ice inside the Maverik Center alongside Chen Wednesday will be fellow bronze medalists, Maia and Alex Shibutani, who along with Chen and others on Team USA won a bronze medal in the team event in South Korea. Olympic gold medalists from the 2014 Games, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, will skate, as will the likes of Ashley Wagner, Karen Chen and Jason Brown.
Chen rarely gets to return home and compete in a more low-key atmosphere, where he said it’s up to the skaters to engage with the audience more and ensure they enjoy the show. Asked if he plans on throwing five or six quads in front of the hometown crowd, Chen responded, perhaps in jest, “Oh, for sure.”
Now an Olympic veteran having been run through the gauntlet of tension that accompanies an appearance at the Games, Chen said he leans on the lessons he had in February, not only in the rink, but in every other avenue of life.
It’ll undoubtedly help at Yale this fall.
“Having something like the Olympics where basically it’s the epitome of your career and having that sort of pressure and knowing what that’s like and how to deal with,” he said, “it definitely has helped me and will help me in the future.”