The team figure skating competition is not only a medal event in its own right, it is also a chance for savvy fans to mine for clues about who seems to be in good form for the big events still to come. For Nathan Chen, his stellar performance in the men’s short program of the team event could a sign of good things to come.
With seamless footwork and high-flying quadruple jumps, Chen, the gold medal favorite in the men’s singles event, easily finished first on Friday, giving the U.S. team an early edge on its way to securing silver at the Beijing Games.
More than that, though, Chen took a huge step in redeeming himself after a disappointing showing at the 2018 Games, where falls and mistakes in the short programs of both the team and the singles events fell cavernously short of his expectations. After a spectacular performance in the long program in Pyeongchang, he finished fifth in singles.
Performing in a black tuxedo and a white T-shirt to a version of “La Bohème,” Chen landed two quadruple jumps in his team event skate, including one quadruple-Lutz/triple-toe-loop combination, that helped him score 111.71 points, his season’s best.
But Chen said he was not celebrating just yet.
“There will be a time and place for that,” Chen, a three-time world champion with only one loss since the 2018 worlds, said on Friday. “I still have a lot more to do ahead of me. Of course, I’m very, very happy. I might not be the most emotive person, but deep down I’m genuinely very happy.”
Countries typically send out their top skaters in the team event, but can swap out up to two skaters or teams between programs. Four years ago, for example, Chen skated the short program for the Americans, and Adam Rippon took the free skate.
Vincent Zhou skated the long program in the team competition, since Chen, who had a much better shot at gold in the individual competition, couldn’t risk fatigue or injury. Zhou later tested positive for the coronavirus and had to withdraw from the singles event.