American skater Chen eyes elusive Olympic gold in Beijing

Jan 11, 2022, 6:41 PM | Updated: Jan 12, 2022, 8:44 am

Nathan Chen competes in the men's free skate program during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships S...

Nathan Chen competes in the men's free skate program during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

              Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan performs during the men's free skating competition of the Japan Figure Skating Championships at Saitama Super Arena, in Saitama, north of Tokyo, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
              Nathan Chen competes in the men's free skate program during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
              Madison Chock and Even Bates compete in the ice dance program during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
              Alysa Liu skates in the ladies short program event during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP)

Nathan Chen has accomplished just about everything that one can accomplish in the sport of figure skating.

Six consecutive national championships, the most since two-time Olympic champion Dick Button in the 1940s and ’50s.

Three consecutive world championships, the best run by an American since Scott Hamilton in the early ’80s.

Nearly four years with only a single defeat, a run that includes three consecutive wins at the Grand Prix Final.

The only thing he’s yet to accomplish? Winning Olympic gold.

The 22-year-old Chen blew his chance four years ago in Pyeongchang, when an unusually poor short program cost him a chance at a medal; he rallied to finish fifth. But he’s about to get another shot next month in Beijing, when Chen goes toe-to-toe with two-time defending gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu and a stacked field at historic Capital Indoor Stadium.

“Every season my goal is to keep improving,” Chen said after shattering his personal-best score at nationals last week. “I’m looking forward to going back and working on whatever goals I have for the Games. I’m just enjoying this moment.”

The showdown between Chen and Hanyu will be the highlight of the entire Olympic program.

The American comes armed with an array of quadruple jumps that rival anyone in the world, while his artistry takes him beyond being just an athlete to being a bona fide performer. The biggest question surrounding Chen is what programs he’ll unveil in Beijing — the programs he used with mixed results earlier in the season or the programs he used at nationals, a short to “La Boheme” and an Elton John medley for his free skate that he used during the 2019-20 season.

“I’m really happy with these programs,” Chen said, giving credit to choreographer Shae-Lynn Bourne, “and that’s why it’s awesome to be able to have such amazing choreographers consistently deliver great programs for me, so it’s easy to be able to go back and look through all the work she’s done with me.”

Hanyu withdrew from both of his Grand Prix assignments because an injured right ankle, but he dazzled last month in winning the Japanese championship. His key to victory could rest in becoming the first skater ever to land the quadruple axel — a jump that involves 4 1/2 rotations that he has landed in practice.

“Beijing is an extension of everything I’m doing,” Hanyu said, “and I know I just might have to go all in now.”

Others to watch in the men’s competition include Shoma Uno, the reigning Olympic silver medalist who won the NHK Trophy last fall; Vincent Zhou, the American who beat Chen at Skate America and was second to Uno at the NHK Trophy; and the Russian star Mikhail Kolyada, who finished second at his two Grand Prix assignments this season.


It’s almost a foregone conclusion that the gold medal will be headed to Russia for a third straight Winter Games. The only question is whether it will be around the neck of world record-holder Kamila Valieva or one of her teammates.

Valieva’s score of 272.71 points at Rostelecom Cup was more than 35 points higher than anyone else.

The Russians’ biggest competition will come from Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto. But keep an eye on 17-year-old Alysa Liu, who withdrew from U.S. nationals after a COVID-19 positive but whose jumping ability gives her a chance at the medal stand.


The U.S. only qualified one pairs for the 2018 Winter Games: Alexa Knierim and Chris Knierim. The Americans have two headed to Beijing, and one of them is Alexa Knierim and new partner Brandon Frazier; they teamed up after Chris Knierim’s retirement. The other is Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, the first non-binary Olympic athlete.

They’re unlikely to compete for medals, though. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia are the heavy favorites, while reigning silver medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong give host China its best shot at the podium.


Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue finished one spot out of the medals in Pyeongchang. They lead a trio of American ice dance teams headed to Beijing, and all have a chance to medal. Madison Chock and Evan Bates beat Hubbell and Donohue at nationals last week, while Kaitlin Hawayak and Jean-Luc Baker train at the same school in Montreal as them.

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France lost gold by the slimmest of margins in Pyeongchang. They return as favorites with Russia’s Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov and Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier also in the mix.


Russia’s strength and depth, particularly in women and pairs, make it the heavy favorite to win team gold after finishing second to Canada in Pyeongchang. The Canadians and Americans could have a spirited competition for silver and bronze.


More AP Winter Olympics: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

3 months ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

3 months ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

3 months ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

3 months ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

3 months ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

3 months ago

American skater Chen eyes elusive Olympic gold in Beijing