Courtesy of International Skating Union

On Friday morning in Beijing, Team USA skater Nathan Chen ’24 recorded the second-highest short program score in history as he earned first place in the men’s single portion of the team event. On Tuesday morning, he will skate a second short program as he competes in the men’s single skating short program. 

Chen is competing in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics as a member of Team USA for the team event and as an individual men’s figure skater. Chen started his Yale education in fall 2018, but has taken two gap years to prepare for the Olympic Games, where he is a strong contender for gold as a six-time U.S. national champion and three-time world champion. While Chen earned a team bronze medal in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, he placed fifth in the individual competition.

“Going into the 2017/2018 season, I never really wanted to verbalize this, but it was just like, I wanted to win,” Chen said in an interview provided by the Olympics. “That was the whole reason why I was training for that season. But at the same time, you know, having had that experience at the Olympics and knowing what it’s like to sort of fail on the biggest stage, it’s nothing really to be afraid of.”

On Friday, Chen began his run in this Olympics by placing first in the team men’s single short program with an Olympic record score of 111.71 — just 0.11 points short of the world record. Chen performed the same program — to the tune of Charles Aznavour’s operatic “La Bohème” — that he used at the 2022 US Figure Skating Championships in January, where he placed first.

Most commentators agree that Chen is poised to podium in the men’s individual competition — the question is whether it will be silver or gold. If Chen wins gold, he will be the first American man to win gold in the men’s single since 2010 and the first Asian-American man to win an individual Olympic medal in figure skating. However, Chen will be competing against Yuzuru Hanyu, two-time Olympic champion and current holder of the highest-ever short program score. Hanyu arrived at the Olympics with the claim that he will successfully land a quad axel, a move that has never been successfully finished in competition. 

“To be honest, I was not really thinking about these Olympics,” Hanyu said in a press conference. “But because of what it took to get here, and all the support I’ve had — and still have — I decided to compete at these Games … As long as I’m in it, I’m going to make sure I do everything I can to win. I’m taking the quad axel as a weapon.”

Hanyu also has the opportunity to become the first male skater to win three consecutive gold medals at the Olympics in 94 years. However, Chen leads their rivalry 5–4 and has come out on top in their last three meetings.

Chen’s teammates include Vincent Zhou — who placed third in the team event of men’s single free skate — and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who placed first in the rhythm dance portion of the team event. Zhou matriculated at Brown University in fall 2019. 

“Every day, going to the rink [growing up], I pass[ed] through the Salt Lake City memorabilia, the cauldron, all the rings everywhere, pictures of all the athletes, all these things, you know,” Chen said in an interview with CNN. “If you see that every single day, you’re like, ‘Dang, it’s really cool to be an Olympian.’”

As of Sunday afternoon, the Russian Olympic Committee was ranked first with 45 points, three points ahead of second-place Team USA. The team event will conclude Monday.

The next individual men’s event will be the free skate occurring at 8:30 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Feb. 9 or 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 10 in Beijing.

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.