Nathan ChenPhoto: Getty Images
The Winter Olympics are always sports’ most unique event. For the most part, it’s a collection of niche sports getting international attention all at once. Exceptions have existed with men’s ice hockey, with five straight Olympiads allowing the NHL’s stars to participate for their countries, last taking place at the 2014 Sochi games. Remember the shootout against Russia where TJ Oshie’s performance launched him into super stardom? Or the 2010 Vancouver final between the United States and Canada that felt like an All-Star game, but everyone actually tried in one of the greatest hockey games I’ve ever seen?
Other exemptions have been given to individuals like Michelle Kwan, Scott Hamilton, Mikaela Shiffrin, Apolo Ohno, Shaun White. If he wasn’t on that exclusively subjective list before late Monday night in America, Nathan Chen needs to be on it now. In Beijing, Chen has slayed whatever lingering demons were left over from his Olympic debut in PyeongChang, where he fell in the short program in the team and individual events.
Chen scored a world-record 113.97 points in the individual men’s short program, a performance which included a triple axel and two quadruple jumps, on Tuesday in China, improving from his already-stellar performance in the team competition last Friday, where his short-program heroics helped the United States to a silver medal. Chen entered the Olympics as the heavy favorite to win gold and has lived up to the hype thus far. He took his new world record from Yuzuru Hanyu, who won gold in men’s singles in Sochi and PyeongChang, and scored a 111.82 at the Four Continents Championships in February 2020.
Chen is only 22 and won’t celebrate another birthday until the first week of May. Ever since his self-described “disastrous” outings four years ago, he’s a three-time world champion. The 2020 edition wasn’t held due to the pandemic, making him the undisputed men’s singles world champion in between the 23rd and 24th Olympiads. He’s also the three-time defending champion in men’s singles at the Grand Prix Final, dating back to…