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Nathan Chen learning from the ‘chaos’ of his first year balancing Yale University and elite skating

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Nathan Chen spoke to NBCSports.com/figure-skating before skating in the Stars on Ice show in Providence on Saturday. The two-time world champion and three-time U.S. Champion is participating in some of the shows on tour this year while studying for final exams.

He noted that this year, he learned a lot both inside and outside of the classroom, and on and off the ice. He’ll use all of that to have an even better season next year, where he plans to compete on the Grand Prix circuit and juggle his sophomore year at Yale University.

But first, he’ll spend the summer traveling, touring, and working on programs for next season.

This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Your classes must be winding down.

Yeah. I just finished classes yesterday and then right now I’m just studying for finals.

This show is taking place in Providence, pretty close to Yale. Do you expect to have any friends to come?

Actually, today’s Spring Fling at Yale which is basically just like a big party where there’s a lot of live music, everyone’s hanging out. It’s a time to decompress from studying slash get ready for more studying in the next few days. I don’t think many people will come down here. But at the same time, it’s great to be able to be so close to New Haven and that definitely helps with traveling and not having to feel as though I’m so far away from everyone.

At the show in Hartford last year, there were a lot of Yale banners in the audience.

That was super nice. I thought that was really sweet.

Have you been able to do some of the stereotypical New England things, like apple picking?

I have not actually! I hit up the whole restaurant scene around New Haven. I’ve been to Pepe’s, I’ve been to Sally’s, been to Talayna’s, a lot of these little pizza places. I really like that actually. Yale’s campus is so beautiful and there’s so many things to do on campus. You’re never gonna really get bored. But at the same time, you have like other places around New England that you can check out. I’ve been to Boston. Probably gonna go to New York next week with some friends. It’s nice to have access to these major cities as well.

Where will you spend your summer?

I will be mostly in California; however, I am gonna spend some time traveling into Japan, into some other places for shows, for choreography, for other things.

Who are you going to for your choreography?

I think the same as this year. I already talked to them. So, I’m most likely working with them again as long as they’re OK scheduling-wise. But I think Shae [Lynn Bourne] and Marie [-France Dubreuil] have definitely helped my skating develop a lot. I really enjoy working with them so I’m definitely going to try to do that.

What hints can you give us about music choices?

I honestly don’t even know. I haven’t even talked to them about that yet. I’m not sure.

Is it your plan to compete on the Grand Prix series again in the fall?

Absolutely. Yeah. As of right now, I’m still trying to figure out schooling. But I am planning on continuing school and skating, basically the same as this year.

Have you spoken with other skaters, like Olympic teammates Karen Chen or Vincent Zhou, about trying to balance college and elite skating? [Editor’s note: Karen Chen and Vincent Zhou have heavily hinted they’ll be attending college in the near future.]

I talked to Karen a little bit. But it’s hard for me to give them a lot of advice because every school is different. They have to talk to their specific advisers and people on their campus to know that they have access to certain things like the rink, and make sure that the area has other training sites that you could potentially go to. Every school’s curriculum is a little different. So, fortunately, with Yale, they’ve adopted a system where I’m able to skate and do school at the same time. It’s hard for me to really say.

What are you performing on the Stars on Ice tour?

I’m still gonna continue my short program that I’ve been doing all season. I might change that depending on if I have enough time to choreograph something new. The other one is “Next To Me.” It’s a short program that I choreographed myself a few days before I headed out to Worlds. I had fun with it. I think it’s an interesting piece of music and I really like listening to it outside of skating. I thought it’d be fun to skate to.

We were able to get your immediate reaction right after winning the world title, but has being two-time world champion sunk in? How do you evaluate your season now that you’re a little bit removed from it?

I’m happy with my season. I mean, there’s definitely a lot of things I think I could have done better. But in terms of results, there’s nothing more that I could’ve wanted from the season. I’m really, really happy with it.

But thinking into the future, I know there’s a lot of things that I wanna clean up in terms of scheduling. Of course, I had to do that because I didn’t know how to manage the two. The first semester was just kinda chaos. The second semester has been a lot more structured. As long as I can continue developing on the structure that I’ve learned from second semester, I think I’ll be pretty good.

MORE: Michelle Kwan jokes about Nathan Chen’s skateboarding across Yale University campus

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2018-19 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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WATCH LIVE: Nathan Chen in U.S. Figure Skating Championships free skate

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Nathan Chen tries to become the first man to win four straight U.S. figure skating titles since 1988, live on NBC Sports on Sunday.

NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of the men’s free skate for subscribers starting at 2:30 p.m. ET in Greensboro, N.C. NBC joins with TV coverage at 3.

LIVE STREAM: Men’s Free Skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Chen, a 20-year-old Yale sophomore, is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics. He can become the seventh man since World War II to win four straight national titles.

Five of the previous six went on to earn Olympic gold, including Dick ButtonScott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano in 1988.

Chen carries a substantial 13.14-point lead from Saturday’s short program, where he landed two quadruple jumps on one week of full training following a flu bout.

The anticipated drama Sunday comes in the battle for silver and bronze medals and the last two world championships team spots.

Jason BrownAndrew TorgashevVincent Zhou and Tomoki Hiwatashi are separated by 8.78 points. Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, and Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, are the only men in the field other than Chen with world team experience.

Key Skate Times
5:01 p.m. (ET) — Vincent Zhou
5:18 — Tomoki Hiwatashi
5:26 — Andrew Torgashev
5:35 — Nathan Chen
5:43 — Jason Brown

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Mikaela Shiffrin, with 66th World Cup win, moves one shy of career dream

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Mikaela Shiffrin has said one of her career dreams is to win in every discipline in one season. She is now one victory shy of realizing it.

Shiffrin earned her 66th World Cup victory — and her second in three days — at a super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria, on Sunday.

She prevailed by .29 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino and .70 over Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami. Gut-Behrami, the last skier other than Shiffrin to win a World Cup overall title back in 2016, earned her first podium in exactly one year.

Full results are here.

“Perfect weekend for me,” said Shiffrin, who moved one shy of recently retired Austrian Marcel Hirscher for third place on the World Cup career wins list. “The whole team is excited about the whole weekend, but especially today.”

She is en route to a fourth straight World Cup overall title. And she is a combined victory away from wins in all five disciplines in one season. Only Marc GirardelliPetra KronbergerJanica Kostelic and Tina Maze have done it.

“The thing that I’m most proud of right now is that I know how to win in slalom, [giant slalom], super-G and downhill, which I never expected that would really happen,” she said.

Shiffrin struggled with confidence during a winless stretch in early January, trying not to compare herself to last season, when she won a record 17 times. She still leads the men’s and women’s tours with six victories this season, a little more than halfway through.

“Every race is such a big fight, and I haven’t been the one on top of this fight every time,” she said. “Certainly I’ve been like sometimes the expectations that I have or that other people might have, I’m not quite living up to that. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I’m failing sometimes, even though this is still just an incredible season.”

There are two combined races left this season for Shiffrin to achieve the dream — Feb. 23 in Switzerland and March 1 in Italy. While combined — mixing a speed run and a technical run — might seem perfect for Shiffrin, she has one victory in four starts in the discipline between the World Cup and Olympics.

And Shiffrin is careful about her race schedule. She is undecided on entering a downhill and super-G next weekend at the 2014 Olympic venue in Russia.

“After this weekend my brain is a little bit dead,” she joked.

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