Of all the American skaters and teams, though, Chen is the best hope for an Olympic gold medal. He is a three-time world champion and a force on the international stage. Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, the two-time Olympic gold medalist, is expected to be his biggest rival.
But at these Olympics, with the last several years of dominance in mind, Chen is poised to beat him.
His performance at nationals made that clear.
Under the pressure of trying to avoid the highly contagious Omicron variant, and after at least six skaters tested positive for the coronavirus at nationals, Chen remained calm and focused.
In the short program on Saturday, he broke his own event record by scoring 115.39 points to put himself in a position to win yet another title. And his fellow top Americans delivered personal-best results. Both Zhou and Malinin scored more than 100 points, hinting that the U.S. men’s team could be formidable in Beijing.
“There have been many amazing performances that have been done over the history of figure skating, so I can’t say definitively that this is for sure the best, but in my career this is definitely one of the standout few,” Chen said about the short program.
Here at nationals, Chen decided to revert to his 2019-20 programs because, he said, he feels connected and comfortable with them. After losing at Skate America in October with new programs, the move to the old standbys seemed to make sense.
He skated his short program to “La Bohème” and his free skate to snippets of reworked Elton John songs, with the crowd at Bridgestone Arena giving him a standing ovation both times. On Sunday, it looked like Chen was genuinely having a good time — despite the two falls. When the last beat of music echoed throughout the arena, he laughed and smiled all the way to the kiss-and-cry area to wait for his scores.