The Return Of Nathan Chen

After missing the Olympic podium in 2018, the U.S. figure skater heads to Beijing as a favorite for gold.

In the Beijing Olympics 2022, Team USA figure skater Nathan Chen is a medal contender.
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

It’s been an eventful four years since U.S. figure skater Nathan Chen competed in his first Olympics, the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Though he finished fifth overall, less than a month later he won his first world title — of three. His only loss in the last four years came in October 2021, when he came in third behind fellow American Vincent Zhou and Japanese skater Shoma Uno, but he soon bounced back and claimed his sixth consecutive U.S. title last month. Now the 22-year-old heads into the 2022 Winter Olympics as a favorite to win gold in the men’s figure skating event.

Chen, who grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, started skating when he was 3 years old, in the wake of the 2002 Olympics in his hometown. The Games loomed large for him, and he recently told the Los Angeles Times that the experience of participating for the first time was “terrifying.” Now as a returning Olympian, he has a different approach. “I’ve already learned a big lesson in terms of how to address competitions with excitement, with happiness, with just overall joy, and I think being able to maintain that is the most important thing for me,” he told the Times.

You can catch him in action in the team event and the men’s individual event, beginning Feb. 3 on NBC, Peacock, and other streaming platforms. In the meantime, here’s what to know about Chen, from his on- and off-ice achievements to his prolific dad jokes.

Nathan Chen Is A Two-Time Olympian

Jamie Squire/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Koki Nagahama - International Skating Union/International Skating Union/Getty Images
1 / 2

Four years ago in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, Chen captured a bronze medal as part of the team figure skating event. In the men’s singles event, he had an unexpectedly poor performance in the short program that left him in 17th place going into the final segment of the two-part competition. Not even his record-breaking performance in part two — with an unprecedented six quadruple jumps — was enough to get him on the podium. Chen finished in fifth place overall, one place ahead of Zhou, who is also returning for his second Olympics in Beijing. (Fan favorite Adam Rippon, who is no longer competing, finished in 10th place.)

Chen Balances Skating With Studying

Less than a month after the 2018 Games, Chen started college at Yale University. He’s on pace to graduate in 2024, with a bachelor’s degree in statistics and data science. “It was honestly a no-brainer,” he told YaleNews in October of his decision to attend college amid the height of his competitive career. “Yale was a completely different venture for me. I’d never considered that I’d really truly have the opportunity to go, and I didn’t want to pass that up.”

By fall, Chen should be back on campus — and perhaps still skating. “My future is still pretty undecided,” he said ahead of the U.S. Championships in early January, according to the Tennessean. “Whether I want to continue or I don’t. I am looking forward to going back to school. In this current moment, I’m enjoying what I’m doing.”

His Instagram Is Full Of Dad Jokes

Understandably, skating is a major focus of Chen’s Instagram account. His photos often feature his training, travel and competitions, and fellow skaters. The athlete also shares other elements of his life, including his impressive piano skills, his love for his family and friends, and his outdoor adventures. His account also features regular photos with cute dogs and his penchant for dad jokes, like his “botany” pun above.