A figure skating journey that started at 3 years old in the back seat of his mother's "trusty little Prius" culminated in an Olympic gold medal for Nathan Chen in Beijing on Thursday morning.
Chen, 22, reflected on TODAY Thursday in the wake of his nearly flawless performance about how the support of his mother, Hetty Wang, helped take him to heights he never imagined.
"Absolutely none of this would be at all remotely possible without her support," he said. "Since day one, 3 years old, I stepped on the ice, and she's been by my side ever since."
She moved with the youngest of her five children from Salt Lake City to Lake Arrowhead, California, when Chen was 11 so he could train with coach Rafael Arutunian.
"We didn't always have the funds to be able to support coaching," Chen said. "So she was basically my coach throughout that whole period of time I was growing up, and along when I decided to move to California to work with my current coach, Rafael Arutunian. She drove me back and forth in our trusty little Prius, so a lot of miles put together and a lot of time put together, but this is a result of her."
Chen shared a photo of him and his mother in front of that Prius in a touching message to her on Instagram for Mother's Day last year.
"It made me emotional to think of how tirelessly she supported me in my skating career, not once complaining that the drive was too long or too hard," he wrote. "Without her support, I never would have made it to where I am now."
My mindset here was just enjoy every moment
— Nathan Chen on TODAY
His family couldn't be there in Beijing to cheer him on due to COVID-19 restrictions, but he shared his happiness on a video call with them after his win while waiting for his mandatory drug testing.
"That was the only free moment after I got off the ice, and it was really special to be able to see them," he said.
Chen brought home his first men's singles Olympic gold medal in emphatic fashion with a world-record 218.63 points in Thursday morning's free skate program. He was the first American in 12 years to win gold in the event.
"I truly never thought I'd actually make it this far in skating," he said. "To have the opportunity to get to the Olympics and be able to do what I did, it's all thanks to the people that have supported me throughout my career."
He has now won three straight world titles and an Olympic gold medal, putting the heartbreaking falls that cost the Utah native a medal at the 2018 Olympics in the rearview.
"I certainly learned the most from my mistakes," Chen said. "The fact that I was able to get a second chance at the Olympics, I of course didn't want to lose out on this opportunity.
"I think I learned really well how to sort of fall back to rely on my team and find the right pieces to work with and just trust them, trust myself, trust the rest of the people that have given me such great advice over the past four years, and that certainly helps here."
Chen was in the lead entering the free skate before running away with the victory ahead of Japan’s Yuma Kagiyama and Shoma Uno.
With the pressure on to clinch the gold medal, he said he sought to skate with joy, rather than a singular focus on a medal like he did in Pyeongchang.
"Certainly my mindset here was just enjoy every moment, and so far been I've been able to do that," he said.