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Nathan Chen commits to Yale this fall

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NEW YORK — Nathan Chen had until May 1 to determine if it was possible to continue figure skating while attending Yale this fall. His decision?

“I’ve committed,” to the Ivy League school, Chen said at the Figure Skating in Harlem gala in Manhattan on Tuesday night.

The 18-year-old world champion plans to move to New Haven, Conn., after U.S. Figure Skating’s preseason Champs Camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., typically in mid-to-late August. Classes start Aug. 29.

Chen spoke after attending Bulldog Days, a freshman orientation, in New Haven last week. Asked if he was recognized by other prospective students, Chen joked that he took about 400 or 500 photos. He also consolidated his belief that he can make this work.

“Trying to figure out a long-term academic progression,” he said. “Trying to figure out how to plan around [Beijing] ’22. I still have a lot of questions that I want answered, but I think that’ll come as time progresses.

“I want to have a test run, just to see how practice is going to work with school because I know there’s a rink about 30 minutes out from campus. I need to know what my course schedule will look like, like how many courses will be in the morning, afternoon and evening and when I can plan skating around that.

“Mostly right now it’s to make sure I’m willing to commit to Yale, they’re willing to commit with me, and that seems to be the case.”

Chen said he’s already brought up his ideal competition scenario for the fall — competing at Skate America in October and Grand Prix 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. The world championships take place during spring break.

He would have to miss classes to compete at the U.S. Championships in January in Detroit.

“[Yale] said, typically, it should be OK,” said Chen, who is currently touring with Stars on Ice. “Those are some of the questions that I have that need to be answered.”

He has the option of taking up to two full semesters off before the 2022 Winter Games.

Chen would not be the first figure skater to attend Yale, but 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes did so after retiring from competition. Chen said he will probably have the same freshman adviser that Hughes had.

“This first year is to decide, see how much I can handle them both [school and skating], then go from there,” he said.

Chen does not plan to seek a second coach close to Yale to supplement his Southern California-based coach, Rafael Arutyunyan.

“I’ll try to get back [to California] as much as I can, slash bring Raf [to New Haven] as much as I can, but I think most of it will have to be done pretty remotely,” he said. “I’ll just stick with Raf and check in with him at the end of every week.

“I’ve spent 13 years of my life on the ice, so I already know the fundamentals of skating. Raf has educated me well to take the reins myself. We’ll try it. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, we’ll try to figure out something else.”

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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

 

Five takeaways from world figure skating championships

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Five thoughts wrapping up the figure skating season after the world championships ended in Milan last weekend … 

1. Nathan Chen finished one program shy of a perfect season

Chen had the best season imaginable for somebody who did not earn an individual Olympic medal. Though the Olympic short program disaster made the podium unreachable, he rebounded with the best free skate by nearly nine points. He won his other six competitions and in the finale, worlds, had his best showing of them all to become the second man to break the 320-point barrier.

It creates a dichotomy going into next season and the next Olympic cycle. Chen clearly had the best overall season in men’s skating (Yuzuru Hanyu won the Olympics but was second in his other two competitions before missing two months due to injury), but to the casual fan the next four years will be a comeback from a fifth-place finish in PyeongChang.

About next season: No Olympics, but Chen’s task is tall. The world championships will be on home ice for Hanyu and Olympic and world silver medalist Shoma Uno.

2. Russian dominance defeated

After going one-two at the Olympics, Russia nearly failed to qualify the maximum three spots for 2019 Worlds.

Olympic champion Alina Zagitova‘s three-fall free skate dropped her to fifth overall in Milan. Olympian Maria Sotskova also fell and had four jumps called under rotated, sliding from fifth to eighth. If either Zagitova or Sotskova slipped one more place, Russia would have two women instead of three at next year’s worlds.

Credit Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond for being the only gold-medal contender to deliver in the free skate. It had been her nemesis early this eason. For all the praise Zagitova received leading into and during PyeongChang (deserved), Osmond actually beat her in the short program at Grand Prix France and the Grand Prix Final in the autumn before struggling with late jumps in her free skates.

Osmond will benefit next season from this: Russia’s two best junior skaters can’t compete at senior worlds until 2020. So it will be up to Zagitova and Olympic silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva to keep it rolling, each coming off a defeat to end her season.

3. Bradie Tennell is the U.S. hope

Tennell, who was not on the Olympic radar until late last summer, was the top U.S. finisher at all of her competitions this season (not done since Ashley Wagner in 2012-13), closing with a solid sixth-place finish at worlds.

Mirai Nagasu (10th at the Olympics and worlds) is about to turn 25. Ashley Wagner is soon to be 27. Neither has publicly committed to skating next season. Tennell is the new face of U.S. women’s skating now and perhaps for years to come.

The 20-year-old from suburban Chicago had the benefit of her first healthy year as a senior. She went into the Olympics as the only woman without a fall the entire season. Tennell finally looked human at her last two events — a fall in her Olympic short program, two under rotations in her Olympic free skate and four negatively graded jumping passes in her world free skate. Not surprising for a skater at the end of by far the busiest season her young career.

4. Rivalry missing at the top of ice dance

Ice dance was defined by rivalries between training partners at the last two Olympics, but now it looks like the discipline with the clearest No. 1 heading into next season (pending rule changes that could impact scoring).

By all indications (but not official yet), PyeongChang gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are done competing. The silver medalists, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, haven’t lost to anybody other than Virtue and Moir in more than three years. And that included a world title on Saturday with the highest score under the current points system.

Papadakis and Cizeron, who three years ago became the youngest ice dance world champs in 40 years, scored 200-plus points at all six of their top-level international events this season. Minus Virtue and Moir, no other couple has ever scored 197.

As for everyone else, keep this in mind: Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue may have missed the Olympic medals with Donohue’s free-dance fall, but they finished the season with the world’s best score in the non-Virtue/Moir/Papadakis/Cizeron division. Their world-silver-medal score would have beaten Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani for bronze at the Olympics by four points.

5. Questions for pairs

Russia missed the pairs’ medals at an Olympics for just the second time since 1964, but by next season could be back atop the discipline.

PyeongChang bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford retired after the Olympics.

PyeongChang silver medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong missed worlds due reportedly to another significant foot injury for Sui. In 2016, Sui underwent right ankle and left foot surgeries and was unable to stand for three months. Though she is only 22 and came back from those surgeries to win a world title in 2017, this is a concern.

The Olympic and world champions from Germany, Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot, could continue to dominate, but the 34-year-old Savchenko hasn’t committed to skating next season.

Russia had two of the top four pairs at worlds — Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov and Natalya Zabiyako and Aleksandr Enbert. None are older than 28.

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