PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — After his error-filled Olympic debut in the men’s team event short program, two-time U.S. champion Nathan Chen went immediately to the practice rink in the basement of the Gangneung Ice Arena and, over a 20-minute span, performed the way he had hoped to when it counted.
Then, with a week before his next competition — Friday’s men’s short program — Chen left the Olympic Athlete Village to train about 50 miles away Chuncheon, where he had more access to “ice time” for the extra practice sessions he felt he needed.
After returning to the Olympic compound, the 18-year-old Chen, who is nicknamed the “Quad King” for his proficiency with a range of quadruple jumps, held a news conference Thursday in PyeongChang. Here are highlights of what the U.S. medal hopeful said about the work he’d been doing, his tentative plan for Friday’s competition — in which he’ll skate 26th among a field of 30, immediately after defending Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan — and his beloved Utah Jazz.
On his rocky Olympic debut, in which he placed fourth in a field that lacked such gold-medal contenders as Hanyu and Javier Fernandez of Spain:
“I definitely was surprised. … But I think I was just a little bit ahead of myself. I need to be a little more present; a little more ‘in the moment’ and hone in on the technical things that I have to think about before the jumps. … There are always benefits and good things, bad things that come out of every performance. Honestly, just being able to be on Olympic ice is something I should try to enjoy more than I did in the competition. During the program, I was [thinking], ‘It’s part of the plan; whatever. It happened. Try to learn from this.’ I put all the bad things out there, so now I can just go up from here.”
On which quads, and how many, he plans for Saturday’s decisive free skate:
“I think I will include the Lutz; however; the number will be between four and five (rather than six, as rumored). I am capable of doing all of them, but I know Salchow, toe, flip and Lutz are the most comfortable at the moment, so I think that is where my mind is set. Of course, come the day of competition, I will decide what specifically I want to do. … I think [six quads] is a little too risky of a program now, so I don’t really feel as though that’s something I’m going try to set my mind to right now.”
Who he regards as his biggest competitor:
“Honestly, just myself. I know that’s cliche, but it’s true. I can’t control at all what these other guys are doing. I know they’re really strong right now, and I know if I start dwelling on what they’re gonna do, or what I think they will do, it’s just going to negatively impact myself. So at this point in time, I just have to think about the things that I can control. Ultimately, I’ll be on the ice by myself during my program, so they will have no factor to how I do my program.”
On the influence of Hanyu and the challenge of competing after him:
“I really feel his presence on the ice really elevates all of us to try harder. He definitely has inspired me, motivated me … to try new quads and try different things out, different layouts out. … I’ve skated after Yuzu actually a handful of times. The only thing I can take away from it is, be prepared for the (Winnie the) Pooh bears to rain down (from fans). Good thing about that is that it takes a while for them to clear it off, and then they give me as much time as I need to get ready….I’ve skated after him and skated well. The crowd always gets super hyped up, and so (I will) just use that to my advantage as well.”
On his interactions with North Korean skaters taking part in the Olympics:
“I really love that. Actually, I’ve seen them at a couple other competitions; not very many. But it’s super awesome to see them here in the Village. They’re so united with everyone. And they just feel like any other athlete, any other competitors, and it’s really cool to see the Olympics do that — being able to bring people who normally wouldn’t be able to compete against us together. Also I saw the North Korean cheer squad, which I thought was really interesting, really fun. I mean ultimately, I’m really glad that they’re here and happy to see that figure skating is able to reach everyone.”
On the 11-game winning streak by the NBA’s Utah Jazz:
“Oh, my God, I’m so happy for them! Crazy! They’ve been killing it. I’ve been trying to keep up with it through NBA TV on my phone. I’m really proud of them.”
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