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Nathan Chen plans to attend Yale, continue figure skating career

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Nathan Chen‘s goal is to attend Yale beginning in August and compete in the fall Grand Prix series. He has until May 1 to figure out if that’s possible.

The recently crowned world champion confirmed Wednesday he was accepted to the Ivy League university among the six or seven schools to which he applied. Chen, 18, said he has until May 1 to decide if he will enroll in classes next semester, or he could lose his spot.

Chen is a native of Salt Lake City and lives and trains in Southern California. He has never been to the Yale campus in New Haven, Conn., but wants to make a long-distance student-coach relationship work with Rafael Arutyunyan beginning this summer.

He preferred Yale to other schools — including two safety nets in Northern California — in part because both he and the university want to work together to allow him to take classes and continue competing.

“First of all, it’s Yale,” Chen said from Florida, where is training for the Stars on Ice tour. “It’s a school that I’ve wanted to go to for a very long time, so that really in itself stands out to me. You know, the elite level of the school. Also, Yale seems like they would like to collaborate the best with me and try to figure out the best approach for me to work with both school and follow my skating dreams.”

Classes start Aug. 29. Fortunately for Chen, Yale has breaks from classes during the weeks of Skate America in October and the Grand Prix in France in November. The Grand Prix Final in Vancouver in December starts on the last two days of classes before a weeklong break ahead of final exams.

Chen said he does not know what he will do if he cannot pull off the school-skating double. He could choose one or the other or try another school.

“As of now, the only two [definite] things is I’ve been admitted to Yale, and I want to continue working with Raf,” Chen said, “so we have to figure that out.”

Chen isn’t the first U.S. Olympic figure skating medalist to be accepted to Yale. That would be 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes.

But while Hughes attended Yale after retiring from skating, Chen plans to take classes while continuing to compete in this Olympic cycle.

More than 100 Olympians have taken classes at Yale.

Chen, an Olympic team bronze medalist, rebounded from a fifth-place finish in PyeongChang — where he entered as arguably the favorite — by winning the world title by nearly 50 points two weeks ago to end his season.

Chen said going into those worlds that he planned to continue competing next season under Arutyunyan regardless of his college choice.

He applied to “six or seven” colleges — mostly California schools, but two on the East Coast — and had not heard back from as of late last month.

“Applications were mostly just for the purpose of trying to get into the colleges,” Chen said three weeks ago. “Once I hear back from them, I’ll figure out logistics and see how I’ll balance them both [school and skating].”

While Chen figures everything out, he will be skating in Stars on Ice shows. NBCSN will air a Stars on Ice special on April 14 from 12:30-1:30 p.m. ET.

At Stars on Ice, Chen will participate in group and individual numbers, plus a special dance routine with Sochi Olympian and training partner Ashley Wagner alongside Olympian ice dance couples Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue.

“It really boggles my mind as we were working on it, trying to figure out steps,” Chen said. “It’s really fun to do because I’ve never done anything like it. Hopefully it will look all right on the ice.

“We’re going to be next to [Sochi gold medalists] Meryl and Charlie, so I’m pretty sure you’ll notice the difference.”

Another headlining PyeongChang Olympian, snowboard halfpipe gold medalist Chloe Kim, tweeted last Monday that she was accepted into Princeton, but the tweet was later deleted.

Other notable Olympians to attend Yale:

Eddie Eagan (1920, 1924, 1932) — Only person to win a gold medal at the Summer Games in a summer sport and a Winter Games in a winter sport.
Bill Steinkraus (1952, 1956, 1960, 1968, 1972) — Four equestrian medals.
Don Schollander (1964, 1968) — First swimmer to win four golds at one Olympics.
Frank Shorter (1972, 1976) — Munich 1972 marathon champion.
Mike Richter (1988, 1998, 2002) — Only U.S. goalie to play in three Olympics.
Sarah Hughes (2002) — Figure skating gold medalist.
Sada Jacobson (2004, 2008) — Three medals in sabre fencing.

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MORE: Five takeaways from figure skating worlds

 

Regan Smith swims another historic backstroke time at Pro Series meet

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Regan Smith, who last summer broke both backstroke world records, put up the fastest 100m back in history outside of a major international meet or trials competition on Saturday.

Smith, a 17-year-old Minnesota high school senior, clocked 58.26 seconds to win at a Pro Series meet in Knoxville, Tenn. It tied for the 12th-fastest time in history. None of the other fastest dozen came in January, six months out from when swimmers peak for the world’s biggest events like the Olympics.

Making it more impressive: Smith did it 27 minutes after finishing second in the 200m butterfly, which she’s also expected to contest at June’s Olympic trials in Omaha.

“It actually wasn’t as bad, as I was nervous it was going to be,” Smith, whose world record is 57.57, said of the double on NBCSN. Smith entered two events per day at the three-day Knoxville meet, in part to prepare for the trials, where she is slated to race six straight days in a bid to make the Olympic team in enough events to swim eight straight days in Tokyo.

On Saturday, Smith held off fellow 17-year-old Phoebe Bacon by six tenths. Bacon beat Smith at the U.S. Open in December, posting the second-fastest time among Americans in the event for 2019.

The teen emergence puts pressure on Kathleen Baker, the Rio Olympic silver medalist who had the world record before Smith took it at worlds.

Full Knoxville results are here. USASwimming.org live streams the last night of finals Sunday at 6:30 ET.

In other events Saturday, world silver medalist Hali Flickinger overcame Smith in the 200m fly, winning in 2:08.34. Smith, third-fastest among Americans last season, was .39 behind. The second-fastest American last year, Katie Drabot, was not in the field. The top two at trials make the Olympic team.

Erika Brown beat world champion Simone Manuel in a freestyle sprint for a second straight meet, taking the 50m free in 24.57 seconds.

Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, edged Manuel by .06 and took .01 off her personal best. Brown ranked third among Americans last year behind Manuel (24.05) and Abbey Weitzeil (24.47).

Brown also defeated Manuel in the 100m free at the U.S. Open in December, moving to fourth-fastest in the U.S. last year in that event. The top six in the 100m free at trials are in line to make the Olympic team, given relay spots.

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Mikaela Shiffrin nearly makes it three-way tie for World Cup win

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Mikaela Shiffrin came .01 shy of making it a three-way tie for a World Cup giant slalom win on Saturday, confirming GS has been the most up-for-grabs discipline for either gender in recent years.

Shiffrin, beaten in her last two slaloms, had the fastest second run to place third behind co-winners Italian Federica Brignone and Slovakian Petra Vlhova in Sestriere, Italy. The reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the GS rallied from fourth place and .42 behind after the first run.

Shiffrin still leads the World Cup overall standings by 233 points over Vlhova. The American last won Dec. 29. Though she made the podium in three of her four races since, Shiffrin expressed a lack of confidence heading into this weekend’s races at the 2006 Olympic venue.

“The most exciting thing for me is that people have stopped asking me, like, are you unbeatable?” said Shiffrin, who won a record 17 World Cup races last season and has four victories nearly halfway through this season, tied with Vlhova for most on tour. “I feel really good in GS. It’s just been a long time since [the last GS on Dec. 28].”

Vlhova earned her third victory this month after beating Shiffrin those last two slaloms. Brignone leads the GS season standings by 61 points over Shiffrin, seeking to become the sixth different woman to win that discipline title in the last six years. There are four more GS races left this season.

It’s the second straight season with a World Cup GS tie. Last Feb. 1, Shiffrin and Vlhova tied in Maribor, Slovenia.

It’s the first time the top three finishers were separated by such a small margin since the last three-way tie for a win in 2006, when Lindsey VonnMichaela Dorfmeister and Nadia Styger had the same super-G time, and fourth-place Kelly VanderBeek was .01 behind.

“Last season, I had the lucky side of the hundredths many times, so sometimes I’m not going to be on the lucky side, too,” said Shiffrin, who had three victories by .16 or tighter last season.

World Cup racing continues with a parallel giant slalom on Sunday at 5:45 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

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MORE: Shiffrin among 10 dominant Winter Olympians of 2010s decade