Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Chen Elevates Hopes for Skating Gold

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Chen Elevates Hopes for Skating Gold

Article excerpt

USA TODAY profiles 10 top American athletes to watch during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which begin Feb. 9.

It has been about 15 years since a little boy growing up in Salt Lake City, the youngest of five children, decided he wanted to figure skate. His family didn't have the money to buy him skates of his own, so he wore his older sister's white hand-me-downs.

When he outgrew them, the boy's father had an idea. He had heard of a foundation being run by three-time national champion and two-time U.S. Olympian Michael Weiss that gave money to up-and-coming skaters. The man's son was too young to apply for any of Weiss' scholarships, but Weiss said he'd help out anyway, giving the family $200 to pay for the boy's first pair of skates. Over the next 10 years, as the boy started showing remarkable progress, Weiss' foundation kept sending money to help keep him in the sport, about $75,000 in all.

It made sense. Figure skating and Nathan Chen were not going to part ways anytime soon.

Retelling this story after winning his second consecutive U.S. figure skating national championship last month, Chen, 18, couldn't help but smile.

"Michael gave me money to kick-start my young career," he said. "Honestly, without that, it would be impossible for me to get to where I am now."

And where exactly is that? On the verge of something quite remarkable. A once-in-a-generation talent, a prodigious athlete and a well-trained artist, Chen is the only undefeated male figure skater in the world this season. He heads to Pyeongchang as a favorite for a medal, perhaps even gold, if his luck and his landings hold on that slippery sheet of ice.

"Sometimes thinking about the Olympics makes me a little nervous," Chen said. "It's something I have to remind myself about, that at every competition, I put a lot of pressure on myself, almost like it's the end of the world, and I have to keep reminding myself it's not. …

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