U.S. figure skater Nathan Chen on Monday said his disappointing performance at the Pyeongchang Games in 2018 gave him a fresh perspective on the sport.
Chen was forced to settle for fifth place in the individual competition in South Korea, and left with just a bronze medal in the team event despite sky-high expectations.
But the 22-year-old has been unstoppable since and picked up his third straight world championship in March.
“Having the opportunity to have such a rough skate at the previous Olympics gave me the insight that skating, while it is incredibly important and the thing I’ve literally done every day since I was three, is also just a passion project for me,” Chen said at the USOPC media summit.
“That sounds a little like I don’t care that much about skating … but there’s a life outside of skating. At some point in the near future I will have to take a step away from skating. I won’t be able to skate for the rest of my life.”
Chen, who will go into February’s Beijing Games once again as a favorite, said he now realizes that every competition is an opportunity to show the work he has been putting into his craft.
“I have a limited number of competitions in my life and I want to make the most out of every one and try to enjoy myself the best I can,” he said.
“I find that when I’m able to adopt that mentality, I’m able to skate a lot better or at least put myself in a position where I feel a lot more relaxed and can enjoy it rather than worrying about what the outcome will be.”
Chen has also become more outspoken on social issues like voting rights and racial inequality since his last Games.
“The last four years have given me a lot of opportunities to learn more about what’s going on in the world. I’ve spent my entire life since I was three years old basically in an ice rink,” he said.
“But fortunately I was also able to go to college starting in 2018 and that gave me a little more exposure of what the real world is like,” he said.
“It’s great to be able to at least figure out yourself and where you belong and how you can create whatever positive influence you can.”