Friday, February 16, 2018
Now that the dust ( or the ice chips?) from last night’s men’s short program have settled, I have some key takeaways about Nathan Chen’s failure to live up to his hype. First of all, the guy is human. Second of all, he is 18. Though Chen’s been a force on the senior circuit in the last two seasons, he’s actually had very little experience on a big, international stage. This is only his second full season as a senior ( his first senior season 2 years ago ended early in an injury that required surgery). He’s only been to one senior World Championship last March, where he finished 6th. It’s not an excuse, but Chen simply doesn’t have the experience of skating under a tremendous amount of pressure in a high stakes situation with intense competition.
To put things in perspective, Yuzuru Hanyu, 23, the reigning Olympic Champion, has been competing on the senior level since the 2010-2011 season and has medaled at the World Championships 5x. Javier Fernandez, who is currently in 2nd, is 26, competing in his third Olympics, and has two World titles under his belt. The other skaters rounding out the top four all have competed in multiple World Championships and have three World medals between them. When you look at it this way, you begin to see just how inexperienced Chen is. (To be fair, even Hanyu, who is one of the greatest skaters in history, fell twice in his gold-medal wining program in Sochi 4 years ago. It happens. The ice is slippery!)
The other factor in last night’s bomb, I believe, is that Chen has been inconsistent all season. Furthermore, each time he competes, he changes which jumps he performs, which is a problematic strategy because he hasn’t been able to get ample mileage on any one program. When on the Olympic stage, when the eyes of the entire world are on you, you can’t go out there without a consistent program that you can do in your sleep. Skaters rely on the ability to go into autopilot and let their muscle memory take over when the pressure is high. Olympic Champion Scott Hamilton always referred to this as the ability to “skate stupid. Don’t think, just do.” With so much program fluctuation, I don’t think Nathan had access to any auto-piloting of the sort!
Lastly, when interviewed after his skate, Nathan said that he didn’t know what happened and he’d have to talk to “his team” to figure it out. NBC commentator Johnny Weir pointed out that Nathan has to be able to figure it out himself. The ability to do this only comes with knowing oneself, which can only happen through time and experience. As unfortunate as last night was, this is the kind of experience that will make him stronger and wiser. Competitive nightmares translate to competitive grit!
All of this said, Chen is 22-points out of third place, and he can make up that difference in just a couple of jumping passes. It’s not over yet! He’s an amazing talent who has single-handedly injected excitement into U.S. men’s skating in the last two seasons and put us back in the conversation for medals for the first time in 8 years. We have not heard the last of Nathan Chen! I’m rooting for him to get Olympic redemption tonight! 💪🏅⛸
What an incredible night of men’s figure skating! It’s a late night, but was well worth staying up past my bedtime! On a night when one skater soared to the heavens, another skater crashed to earth. Twice.
First Pennsylvania’s own, Adam Rippon, continued to live out his Olympic dream with a perfect performance— and plenty of sass! Defending Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu showed everyone that his reign is nowhere near over. He threw it down and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. He was otherworldly. The other top contenders were also terrific. Skaters from Spain, Japan, and China trail Hanyu by mere points, setting the stage for an epic final tonight!
The biggest heartbreak of the night was Nathan Chen, who had a disastrous outing, making uncharacteristic mistakes and finding himself in 17th place, 22 points out of bronze-medal position. Nathan was widely considered a gold medal favorite, but maybe the pressure was too much for the 18-year-old, who has limited experience on the biggest stages. It’s devastating, but this is sports. Sometimes things don’t go right and you have to find a way to put it past you and rise above. I will be rooting for Nathan to do that in the freeskate!
Thursday, February 15, 2018
February 11, 2018:
What a magnificent night of the Olympic figure skating team competition!! First, Adam Rippon was simply sparkling ( and sparkly!), stellar, sublime, and everything he hoped his Olympic debut would be. Next, Mirai Nagasu had one of the greatest Olympic redemption skates that I’ve ever seen! Four years ago the selection committee passed over her for the 2014 Olympic team. Mirai used that heartbreak to reinvent herself as a stronger competitor with the most difficult jump—a triple Axel— in her arsenal. Tonight Mirai realized her dream of skating on Olympic ice again and became the first U.S. woman in Olympic history to land the triple Axel!! So uplifting to see what hard work and determination can do! Lastly, Maia and Alex Shibutani twizzled their way to their most inspired and heartfelt performance of the season. (Plus, bonus points for skating to Coldplay!). At the end of the night, team USA earned its second consecutive Olympic team event bronze medal!
Very proud of our team for skating so many personal bests and handling the Olympic pressure with such grace! ...So many great skating moments already and the individual events haven’t even started yet! We’re in for an awesome Olympics! 🥉⛸❤️🙌
January 7, 2018:
One final thought on the U.S. Figure Skating Championships this weekend: I would like to thank all the skaters for giving me--and so many others--so much joy and entertainment on a bitterly cold weekend in the northeast when so many of us hunkered down and didn't leave the house at all (not that I would have left the house anyway--5 straight hours of coverage yesterday was a-mazing). It's rare that you have one thing that you're so passionate about for your whole life, and I'm grateful that I found it 24 years ago! The cool that is that I've grown up watching skating and no matter what's been going on in my life, it's has always been there. Through all the sport's milestones, I've been there watching, and for all my life's milestones, skating has been there for me. In a world with so much uncertainty, it's nice to have one constant. All the joy it brings me shines light into any darkness that I might be experiencing. Skating can be a balm over any wound. It inspires me, it rejuvenates my spirit, and it makes me want to chase my dreams and do all things with passion, creativity, good sportsmanship, grace, and humility. So thank you, figure skating, I'm your biggest fan!