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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Nathan Chen takes home the gold medal in the men’s individual event

Nathan Chen made it a point to enjoy himself during his last practise before competing for the Olympic gold medal in figure skating.

His only companion was a lonely spot on the edge of the ice rink in Beijing on Thursday, where he glanced about at the stands and stadium, with the Olympic rings visible at every turn. In contrast to the 2018 Winter Games, when he placed fifth overall, he was soaking up the experience of participating at the Olympics, regardless of whether he had won or lost.

Chen was victorious as a result of this newfound respect, as well as a well-deserved surge of happiness. When he skated to an Elton John medley as part of the free skate, he was the last skater to take the ice in the competition, and the whole Olympic venue appeared to hold its breath. Each time he nailed a quadruple leap, a round of applause erupted. With each triple leap, a round of applause erupted.

At the conclusion of it all, Chen finished his routine in the middle of the ice, beaming and delighted because he had accomplished his goal. Finally, he had accomplished his goal of being an Olympic champion. His jet-fueled leaps and a performance that sent goose bumps to his skin earned him the win over three Japanese competitors who ended only a few feet behind him on the podium.

His total score of 332.60 was far higher than that of his opponents. Japanese figure skater Yuma Kagiyama took home the silver medal with 310.05 points, while Shoma Uno, another Japanese skater who took home silver in the 2018 Winter Olympics, took home the bronze.

Yuzuru Hanyu, the two-time Olympic champion, finished in fourth place with 283.21 points, despite the fact that both his short programme and free skate were hampered by mistakes.

When he won, Chen, 22 years old, stated loudly and clearly to the whole Beijing Games audience — and the rest of the globe — that he has been and continues to be the finest skater in the world for more than three years, and that nothing has changed. The Olympic gold medal was Chen’s reward four years after he placed fifth overall, working his way back to that position after coming 17th in the short programme. Chen was the outside expectation to win the gold medal, and he delivered.

He headed into the free skate full of confidence after dominating the short programme, finishing over 6 points ahead of the second-place skater, Kagiyama, in the short programme. His performance was exceptional; he not only won, but also set a world record by collecting 113.97 points for talents that included flawless quadruple leaps and gyroscope-fast spins, among other feats.

Even before Chen’s free skate on Thursday, Hanyu, one of Chen’s key competitors, was a long way behind him in the standings. On his first jump in the short programme, Hanyu was forced to cancel it because, according to him, he had struck an ice hole. The zero score he earned for the skill had a significant negative impact on his medal prospects. He was unable to make up for the points he had lost in the free programme, falling twice, including on his attempt at the quadruple axel, a leap that had never before been attempted in competition.

Since the past Olympics, Chen claims to have developed a new viewpoint. While competing on the international stage for two years, he attended Yale University, expanding his horizons beyond the teeny-tiny world of skating that he has known for as long as he can remember. In his own words, he realised that he is no longer a child, and definitely not the sincere, stressed-out child who came to the last Olympics determined to win at any costs. He has only lost once since the 2018 World Championships, which he attributes to a renewed feeling of self-belief.

Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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