With the arrival of figure skating world champion Nathan Chen ’22 to Yale, students have been abuzz with excitement over the prospect of having an Olympian in their midst. But that’s not the only major figure-skating news on campus this year.
Interest in the Yale College Figure Skating Club has doubled this year, with more than 80 student sign-ups at the extracurricular bazaar compared to last year’s 30. And while the increase in attention coincides with Chen’s arrival at Yale, the team’s co-captains said that improved organization and outreach also explains the group’s success this year.
“Nathan Chen is in no way connected to this club so if you’re here for him, please leave,” co-captain Kimberly Wei ’20 said with a laugh at the group’s information session on Sunday.
After the meeting, co-captains Wei, Karli Cecil ’20 and Maggie Nolan ’21, a staff designer for the News, said they reached out to Chen about joining the team, but have not heard back from him. Chen could not be reached for comment for this story.
Chen rose to prominence for mastering the quadruple jump, which consists of four revolutions in the air. In March, Chen landed six quadruple jumps at the 2018 World Figure Skating Championships and won the gold medal, becoming the first American to win the men’s title since 2009. For many fans, Chen redeemed himself at the World Figure Skating Championships after a disappointing performance at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea this February. After being favored to win the gold medal, Chen placed 17th in men’s figure skating after his individual short program, and ultimately finished at fifth place after the long program.
Although the figure skating club at Yale is now an established program seeing increasing interest, the club’s co-captains said this was not the case two years ago. In those days, barely anyone came to the rink during the club’s allotted skating times, according to Cecil and Angela Jin ’19, who now serves as the club’s show coordinator. Over the past year, the club’s leadership has worked to increase participation at the rink, hosted a free blades-sharpening event. Last year, the club put on its first ice show in 14 years, featuring group and solo performances from skaters of all experience levels. And now, the club is petitioning for its own closet at Ingalls.
Beyond the growth in student interest, the club has also been inadvertently thrown into the limelight by several media outlets in the wake of Chen’s admission to Yale. Nolan said it was strange to see the Yale Collegiate Figure Skating Club mentioned in a press release about Chen’s acceptance. NBC Connecticut reached out to the club looking for information about Chen, but the club had nothing to divulge.
Chen would be allowed to compete in collegiate figure skating competitions with no restrictions, according to the team’s co-captains. He would likely win easily at these events if he competed, the captains added.
While “the Nathan Chen effect” has increased the club’s exposure, Nolan said, many students at the information session said their previous figure skating experience — and not Chen’s presence on campus — led them to join the team.
Katherine Du ’22 and Janie Wu ’22, prospective members of the club, said they have both skated in the past and wanted to continue at Yale. Bella Wu ’22, another prospective member who does not have skating experience but enjoys watching the sport and is a fan of Chen, said she is joining the team to learn the sport.
The Yale Collegiate Figure Skating Club practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. at Ingalls Rink.
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