IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Who is Nathan Chen? 8 facts about the Olympic figure skater

All eyes are on the three-time World champion as he laces up to compete at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
/ Source: TODAY

You may have heard Nathan Chen as a favorite to win gold in men's figure skating at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

But the master of the quadruple lutz is more than just an Olympic skater. Star student? Check. Ballet dancer? Check. Eminem fan? Also, check.

At the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, three-time World champion, 2018 Olympic bronze medalist and six-time U.S. national champion figure skater Nathan Chen, 22, is prepping for the competition of his life.

The Salt Lake City-born skater was favored to win gold in 2018 at Pyeongchang when a disastrous short program left him with no chance to make the podium. But he still managed to make history in a stellar free skate that made him the first skater to land six quads in a single program.

Chen qualified for Beijing after placing first at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships — which was also his sixth consecutive national title, a feat not accomplished by anyone else in the last 70 years.

"It’s amazing to feel that all your work is like culminating to this one moment," Chen told Sheinelle Jones in an interview that aired Monday on TODAY.

Here are eight things to know about Nathan Chen.

1. He's inspired by other Asian figure skaters.

Chen has recalled other Asian figure skaters that had inspired him to keep training as a child, like Michelle Kwan and Kristi Yamaguchi. In fact, he is the first U.S. skater to win six national consecutive titles in a row since Michelle Kwan.

"Michelle was a huge idol trailblazer for Asian Americans and figure skating, so to even come close ... I'm really honored to be here," he told TODAY.

2. He thinks watching his teammates compete is more stressful than competing himself.

Chen said that when he's on the ice, he definitely feels pressure, but mostly feels calm and confident knowing that he's performing to the best of his ability. When his teammates are on the ice, that's when he gets a wave of nerves — especially his close friends, like Team USA skater Mariah Bell.

"When I’m watching Mariah compete or any of my training mates, it’s so stressful... like my heart's pounding," Chen said.

3. His skating dreams started at the Olympics.

The 2002 Winter Olympics were held in his hometown of Salt Lake City, so Chen was given the opportunity to practice at a very young age on a state-of-the-art Olympic ice rink, watching Olympic figure skaters do masterful jumps and tricks right in front of him. This gave him the motivation to practice hard, in hopes that one day, he would find himself competing in the Olympics too.

At just 10 years old, he wowed the crowd at U.S. Nationals and predicted in an interview that he would be in the Olympics in 2018.

4. His mother grew up in the host city of Beijing.

Chen told Lester Holt in an interview earlier this month that competing in the city where his mother was born and raised is extra meaningful. His grandmother still lives in Beijing.

"To be able to have that close family tie to Beijing is really special," he said. "The Olympics is something that every athlete has really dreamed about and that’s the one thing that we’re striving towards every single day and why we go into the rink every single day and why we try so hard. So regardless of anything, just to have that opportunity to be there is special enough."

5. He's classically trained in ballet.

The Olympian is also trained in ballet, a skill he says actually helps his figure skating. As a child, he took ballet classes to supplement his skating training and has said that the work he does in ballet helps him on the ice, since the movement is somewhat similar.

"I know where to put my arms, how to create the line, how to dance to music," he said.

6. He studies statistics and data science at Yale University.

When Chen isn't on the ice or studying ballet, he's at Yale University, studying statistics and data science. Although he has taken the past two years off to train and focus on competing, he will return to school after the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics as a rising junior, ready to get back into the groove of school.

7. His pre-competition routine is strict.

He said that, before his competitions, he has a very specific routine to prepare: hyping himself by listening to Eminem and being certain to put on his left skate before his right.

8. He tries not to put too much pressure on himself to win.

Aside from his impressive awards and accolades received throughout his years of professional skating, Chen has set a standard for himself that most figure skaters could never dream to meet.

At the end of the day, he primarily wants to look back on this experience and simply be grateful for what it taught him.

"You’re not always going to succeed," said Chen, "but having these ups and downs really builds character, and I think that makes the journey worth it."