Nathan Chen (Photo by: Jingyi Cui)
World figure skating champion Nathan Chen, who is set to join Yale next fall, told the News on Monday that he will continue skating competitively while in college. Chen, who is widely viewed as a gold medal contender for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, arrived on campus Monday morning for Bulldog Days, Yale’s three-day program to introduce admitted students and their parents to campus.
As Chen prepares for his first year at Yale, some have wondered how he plans to keep up with his intense training schedule while enrolled as a full-time college student. Speaking with the News during a break from dinner at Ezra Stiles College, Chen said he has started to work out a plan for how he will manage both his athletic and academic duties, and he met with some advisors and deans at Yale on Monday to discuss it. In college, he said, he hopes to pursue the pre-med track, although he is also interested in economics and statistics.
“I don’t want to spend all day at a rink outside of what I already do, and I feel like I can contribute way more if I have a college education versus if I don’t,” he said.
On Monday morning, Chen said, he checked out the Champions ice rink, a potential practice site located 30 minutes away from campus. According to its website, the facility has hosted two U.S. Olympic hockey teams, as well as several Olympic and world skating champions. Kathleen Shea, the director of operations for Champions Ice Management, told the News that Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, Canadian ice dancers who finished seventh in the 2018 Winter Olympics, practiced at the rink before heading to this year’s winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In general, top professional skaters can use the rink for free and during off-hours, Shea added.
Chen has risen to prominence in part by mastering the art of the quadruple jump, which involves completing four revolutions in the air. Last month, in the men’s free program at the 2018 World Figure Skating Championships in Milan, he completed six quads to claim the gold medal, becoming the first American to win the men’s world figure skating title since 2009.
By choosing Yale, Chen follows in the footsteps of figure skater Sarah Hughes ’09, the 2002 Olympic champion in women’s singles. Unlike Chen, though, Hughes ended her competitive career when she came to Yale, after winning the Olympic gold medal while she was in high school.
Perhaps the biggest difficulty Chen will face in keeping up his training at Yale is working out his coaching arrangement, according to Philip Hersh ’68, a former Olympic sports writer for the Chicago Tribune and former sports editor for the News who writes about figure skating in his blog.
Chen’s current coach, Rafael Arutunian, lives in suburban Los Angeles. In an April 19 story for Hersh’s blog, “Globetrotting,” Arutunian explained that Chen will likely practice with him during the summer months in between school years. And, according to the blog post, Chen has asked Arutunian to spend time in the New Haven area in the days leading up to major competitions. Besides Chen, Arutunian coaches about a dozen other figure skaters, including world and U.S. champions.
“If he wants to stay with the same coach, Nathan won’t be able to do that on any kind of regular basis,” Hersh said. “He’s been with that coach since age 11, and that’s the coach that turned him into a world champion, two-time U.S. champion and good enough to make the Olympic games.”
Uncertainties aside, Chen said on Monday that he “really enjoyed” himself at Yale. Asked if he minds groups of students crowding around him to take pictures and ask questions, Chen said that people have generally been respectful.
“They usually just take a quick photo and just ask what I’m doing,” Chen said. “I feel pretty normal outside of that.”
Jingyi Cui | firstname.lastname@example.org