Chinese-American figure skater Nathan Chen wins praise for boldness in PyeongChang

Updated 2018-02-24 16:53:01 Xinhua

True maturity and sportsmanship isn't just about winning. It's also about picking oneself up, finding the courage to face a daunting setback, and rising like a phoenix from the ashes of defeat.

18-year-old Nathan Chen was applauded, not only for his performance but also for his courage, in his hometown, Salt Lake City, capital of Utah, even though he missed the podium, ranking 5th in the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, that will conclude this weekend.

During his team and short programs, which Chen himself admitted were "disastrous," the gold medal contender crashed and burned on the ice in the event he had been expected to win, leaving him in an ignominious 17th place.

But Chen proved he was a champion on or off the podium when he found it in himself to put aside his fears and failures to leap to greatness, becoming the first athlete ever to accomplish six quad spins - five of them executed cleanly - in Olympic competition.

In Salt Lake City, local Desert News Opinion reported the following: "(Chen) chose to be bold and rewrote the ending of this trip to the Olympics. The worst that could happen wasn't another fall, but failure to try. He didn't win gold, silver or bronze. But I'd say he was perhaps the biggest winner on the ice during the 2018 Games."

"Disappointments are not the end of a story unless you stop writing it. If you don't believe it, ask Nathan Chen," Lois M. Collins, columnist for the newspaper wrote.

"Chen, an 18-year-old from Salt Lake City, wiped from his brain his mistake-laden short program and the other terrible short program he skated - in the team event last week. And he set out to write a much better ending to his Olympic story," wrote the New York Times last Saturday.

The report also quoted Shoma Uno, the silver medalist from Japan, as saying: "He's very consistent at practice all the time. In the free skate, Nathan was more like Nathan."

Prior to the Olympics, Nathan Chen was the golden boy, America's top hopeful for an Olympic gold medal in men's figure skating and even a familiar face smiling out across the nation from Kellogg's breakfast cereal boxes and in Super Bowl commercials viewed by millions.

Nicknamed the "Quad King" for his powerful quad spins, Chen was undefeated on the Grand Prix circuit and, many thought, a guaranteed lock for the gold in PyeongChang.

But, like many young athletes, Chen underestimated the pressures of the Olympics and it cost him an individual medal.

"The pressure was pressing down on me," Chen admitted. "I was so set on making the podium that I forgot to be present and be myself."

Afraid of making a mistake, he reined himself in and decided to play it safe. But playing it safe was the mistake, leading to bobbles and falls in his short and team programs that left spectators and fans stunned and gasping.

"These kinds of things happen to every athlete eventually, but it's nothing that Nathan is accustomed to," the 1984 Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton said in a NYT interview.

Chen then holed up in his room for an intense night of introspective soul-searching, talking only to his mom, who had been his rock since he began skating at age three. She helped pull him back from the abyss.

"This isn't who you are," she consoled him, "Tomorrow's a new day."

And so it was.

Knowing he'd already blown his chance for a medal, the pressure was off. So, Chen decided to do what he did best: just skate with all his heart.

"I was, like, I'm not going to hold myself back and play it safe," he said. "I had literally nothing to lose, so if I made a couple of mistakes, so be it."

He chucked off the negative thoughts, threw caution to the wind, and took to the ice determined to let his love of the sport guide him.

That decision launched him into Olympic history. No one had ever done five quads before. Chen did six, though one was marked down for not landing cleanly.

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