Courtesy of US Figure Skating

Yalie and champion figure skater Nathan Chen ’24 set an Olympic record in his first skate at the 2022 Winter Olympics with a first-place finish of 111.71.

Chen began Friday morning by earning Team USA 10 points in the men’s short program at Beijing’s Capital Indoor Stadium. His Olympic record score of 111.71 was 6.25 points ahead of second-place Shoma Uno of Japan and 0.11 points less than the world record set by Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. Skating on the heels of winning his sixth consecutive title at the 2022 US Championships in January, Chen is seeking to capture the one notable exception to his winnings: an Olympic medal.

“Last Olympics, I was three senior internationals in,” Chen said in a post-competition interview with NBC’s Andrea Joyce. “I hadn’t really competed internationally, so just a very large lack of experience, but now coming into this, I’m really happy to be here, very excited to be here, and surrounded by amazing teammates.”

During the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, Chen — competing at 18 years old — clinched first place in the free skating event with a score over 8 points ahead of second-place Hanyu, but placed fifth in the men’s competition overall.

Four years and three world championships later, Chen performed impeccably with zero deductions as he landed expert combinations to the tune of Charles Aznavour’s “La Boheme.” Chen successfully executed a triple axel and a combined quad lutz-triple toe, an extremely difficult sequence to land in competition. His performance contributed ten points to the 28 that Team USA earned on the first day of the competition, when the Americans took a six-point lead ahead of the second-place Russian Olympic Committee.

Hanyu, the current holder of the men’s short-program score record and Chen’s strongest rival, promised to return to competition soon and attempt the first quadruple axel — a feat that no figure skater has achieved in official competition.

“At the Beijing Olympics, I am of course definitely planning to go for the win, including the 4A [quadruple axel],” Hanyu said in a video tweeted by the Japanese Skating Federation ahead of his performance.

Hanyu, a two-time Olympic champion, and Chen have met nine times and Chen leads the rivalry with a 5–4 advantage.

Chen, for his part, won their last three meetings, is the first skater to land five different quadruple jumps in competition and has broken world records six times. 

“I’m just here to have fun and I was able to do that, so I’m really happy,” Chen said to NBC. “[…] Every competition is something [where] you gain more experience, you gain more experience, so it’s wonderful to be here.”

The next round of men’s figure skating competition — men’s free — will be held Monday, Feb. 6 in the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing, China.

Hamera Shabbir covers golf and fencing for the Sports desk and the School of the Environment for the Science and Technology desk. Originally from California's Central Valley, she is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Environmental Studies.