The Untold Truth Of Olympic Medalist Nathan Chen

The rise of Nathan Chen from one-to-watch figure skating prodigy to the USA's best Olympic hope has happened imperceptibly fast. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 5, 1999, Chen has already achieved so much at the dawn of his career: three world championship titles, one Four Continents title, three Grand Prix Final wins, an astonishing 10 U.S. championship wins, and an Olympic Bronze, per Chen's official website.

Of course, a young athlete with so many titles under their belt isn't exactly going to stop there. In 2022, Chen made it a goal to conquer his biggest challenge yet: Acknowledging the expectations placed upon him as America's greatest living figure skater; this year, he went full throttle for Olympic singles gold and managed to capture a gold medal (via ESPN).

As discussed by NBC, this isn't the first time Chen was tipped to win gold. Back in 2018, when he was still a teenager, Chen was hyped by everyone from pundits to sponsors, but in the end, finished fifth. As such, the young skater has said that, win or lose, his career will not hinge on a single Olympics.

Chen's high achieving siblings

Chen is the youngest of five siblings. He has two older sisters, Alice and Janice, and two older brothers, Tony and Colin, per Players Bio. The five were born to Hetty Wang and Zhidong Chen, the latter of which holds a doctorate in Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry and is the president of a large pharmaceutical company in the family's hometown of Salt Lake City.

Nathan Chen isn't the only member of his family who's doing well; in fact, it seems like he is from a family of overachievers. Per Team USA, one of his siblings is a tech whiz in Silicon Valley, another an aerospace expert, the third a doctoral candidate, and the fourth works in finance. Per the same source, Chen identified the support he has received from his brothers and sisters during his rise to the top of world figure skating.

"My siblings are looking out for me, making sure I'm not doing something stupid. They are making sure my head is set straight and that I'm a good person outside of skating and inside of it, too. They all hyped me to go to the Olympics when I was a little kid. They're very excited for me," Chen told Team USA.

Chen's music choices are for fun

A big part of figure skating is the music, which creates a fitting atmosphere for the skater's program and allows the athlete to give the audience and judges a sense of their personality.

Nathan Chen's music choices have certainly attracted attention. Reporting on his performance in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January 2022, The Sake Lake Tribune noted that, though America's top skater fell twice on his journey to taking the top spot in the competition, the errors did little to put him off his rhythm. Much of this, they claim, was thanks to the music, especially an Elton John medley during which the skater busted a number of unconventional hip-hop dance moves, and the sense of fun that such choices bring to Chen's performances.

"I really have a lot of fun on the ice, and this program is just a great vehicle to be able to do that ... The tempo and just the sort of energy that the music gives allows me to have a lot of fun with the program," Chen told The Sake Lake Tribune, though the paper could not ascertain whether the same music would feature in Chen's Olympic program.

Nathan Chen goes to Yale

If qualifying for the 2022 Beijing Olympics and shooting for gold for the second time at the tender age of 22 wasn't enough, Nathan Chen is also making waves academically, as a student at the prestigious Yale University, proving that it's not just his brothers and sisters who inherited the brains in the family.

At Yale, Chen travels around campus on a motorized skateboard, attending morning classes so that he has the afternoons free to skate on Yale's Ingalls Rink, which is usually reserved for the university's hockey players, according to a 2019 profile in The L.A. Times. Though Chen was already a famous Olympian by that point, he didn't especially stand out among the university's best and brightest; in fact, at Yale, Chen is considered just another high achiever.

"It's crazy. There's so many outstanding students here. I'm surrounded by some pretty amazing people ... Everyone has their own niche, and I think it's interesting to be able to just spend some time with other people and listen to how they think, especially people outside of the world of figure skating," he told The L.A. Times.

After the 2022 Olympics, Chen is expected to take a year off from figure skating to complete his studies, according to Yahoo.

The influence of ballet

"When I watch my skating when I was younger, I definitely see all this balletic movement and this artistry come through," Nathan Chen has claimed, according to Cosmopolitan. Though Chen first got into skating at the age of 3 through playing hockey, it is ballet that has arguably had a greater impact on the young figure skater and set him on his path to even greater Olympic glory.

According to Pointe Magazine, Chen trained at Salt Lake City's Ballet West Academy for a total of six years, from the age of 8 to 14, an experience that has given him a "competitive edge" as a fully formed figure skater. At the academy, Chen took leading roles in productions of both "The Nutcracker" and "Swan Lake," which his ballet teachers have claimed would have been instrumental in giving him the ability to project himself expressively in skating competitions.

Homophobic remarks

Despite Nathan Chen's remarkable rise to the very peak of competitive figure skating, there is one unfortunate blot on his copybook: Remarks he made in July 2021.

Per Pink News, Chen was asked during an interview whether at any time he had been encouraged to pursue a more "masculine" sport such as hockey, instead of committing to figure skating. "Yes, certainly. Especially ... as a straight male athlete in a fairly homosexual-dominated sport, or LGBTQ-dominated sport," Chen replied. "I think that there is that connotation and there is that 'Well we don't really wanna watch guys skate around,' and we'd rather watch hockey, or we'd rather watch females do that, which I think is pretty messed up in itself ... It's a genuine sport, we spend our whole lives trying to hone this craft, and to just sort of be belittled like that is not something that is generally taken lightly."

As the source notes, many took exception to Chen's comments, including the nonbinary figure skater Racheline Maltese, who said that rather than explain that figure skating is open to everyone, Chen had taken the opportunity to reassert his heterosexuality and to imply that he was "oppressed by queerness."

Chen quickly apologized, calling his comments "ignorant" and admitted that "instead of saying something meaningful, I blurted out statements that aren't even true, used language that's harmful to the LGBTQIA+ community and to women and minorities and centered the response around myself."