Nathan Chen sets Olympic record with six quad jumps in historic free skate

Nathan Chen was a gold medal contender heading into the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. When he uncharacteristically fell in his short program during the team competition, American fans hoped that he’d gotten his nerves out of the way.

When he fell and stumbled his way through all three of his jumps in the short program, it felt like confirmation that the jitters had gotten the best of him – that the 18-year-old just couldn’t rise to the moment. He sat at 17th place heading into the free skate with an abysmal 82.27 score.

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Nathan Chen throughout his career
FUKUOKA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 05: Nathan Chen of the USA competes in the Junior Men's Short Program during day one of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final 2013/2014 at Marine Messe Fukuoka on December 5, 2013 in Fukuoka, Japan. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
FUKUOKA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 06: Nathan Chen of USA compete in the Junior men's free program during day two of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final 2013/2014 at Marine Messe Fukuoka on December 6, 2013 in Fukuoka, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
TALLINN, ESTONIA - MARCH 06: Nathan Chen of the USA performs during the Men's Short Program on Day 3 of the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships at Tondiraba Ice Arena on March 6, 2015 in Tallinn, Estonia. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield - ISU/ISU via Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - SEPTEMBER 4: Nathan Chen of United States celebrates after finishing first following the junior mens free skate at World Arena on September 4, 2015 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/ISU via Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10: Nathan Chen of United States during the Junior Men short program final during day one of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final 2015/2016 at the Barcelona International Convention Centre on December 10, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos - ISU/ISU via Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 11: Nathan Chen of United States and gold medal poses during the Junior Men Free medals ceremony during day two of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final 2015/2016 at the Barcelona International Convention Centre on December 11, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos - ISU/ISU via Getty Images)
ST PAUL, MN - JANUARY 24: Nathan Chen competes in the Men's Free Skate at the 2016 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championship on January 24, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
ST PAUL, MN - JANUARY 24: Nathan Chen looks on after competing in the Men's Free Skate at the 2016 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championship on January 24, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
USA's Nathan Chen performs during the Men short program at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Paris on November 11, 2016. / AFP / LIONEL BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
SAPPORO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 26: Nathan Chen of the USA celebrates in the kiss and cry after skating in the Men free skating during the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating NHK Trophy on November 26, 2016 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura - ISU/ISU via Getty Images)
First placed Japanese Yuzuru Hanyu (C), second placed US Nathan Chen (L) and third placed Japan's Shoma Uno (R) pose on the podium with their medals as they celebrate after competing in the senior Men Free program at the ISU Grand Prix of figure skating Final, on December 10, 2016 in Marseille, southern France. / AFP / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT (Photo credit should read ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 20: Nathan Chen skates his routine that would earn him first place in the short routine championship on Day 2 at the 2017 US Figure Skating Championships on January 20, 2017 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jason Hanna/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 17: Nathan Chen of United States competes in the men's short program during ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships - Gangneung -Test Event For PyeongChang 2018 at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 17, 2017 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 17: Nathan Chen of United States celebrates with his coach Rafael Arutunian in the kiss and cry after the Men Short program during ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships - Gangneung -Test Event For PyeongChang 2018 at on February 17, 2017 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun - ISU/ISU via Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 19: Gold medalist Nathan Chen of United States greets fans prior to the medal ceremony of the men's skating during ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships - Gangneung -Test Event For PyeongChang 2018 at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 19, 2017 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 28: Figure skater Nathan Chen poses for a portrait during the Team USA PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics portraits on April 28, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Alex Shibutani, Maia Shibutani and Nathan Chen attend the Figure Skating in Harlem 20th Anniversary Champions in Life Gala at 583 Park Avenue on May 2, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Donna Ward/Getty Images)
SAITAMA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 07: Nathan Chen of United States competes during the figure skating Japan Open at Saitama Super Arena on October 7, 2017 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)
Figure Skating - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Men Single free skating competition final - Gangneung, South Korea - February 17, 2018 - Nathan Chen of the U.S. competes. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Figure Skating - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Men Single free skating competition final - Gangneung, South Korea - February 17, 2018 - Nathan Chen of the U.S. competes. REUTERS/Phil Noble
Figure Skating - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Men Single free skating competition final - Gangneung, South Korea - February 17, 2018 - Nathan Chen of the U.S. competes. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
January 6, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; First place Nathan Chen poses with his medal after the men's free skate program during the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
January 6, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; Nathan Chen smiles in kiss and cry in the men's free skate program during the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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Then he took the ice for the final skate of the men’s competition. Chen aimed to become the first skater ever to land five quads in a single program at the Olympics. He cleanly landed all five to secure the record, then he threw an unplanned sixth quad in there for good measure – setting the bar as high as humanly possible for the skaters that followed him.

Not only did his 215.08 points demolish his previous personal best, it became the fifth-highest free skate score of all time. Only Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Javier Fernandez of Spain have ever earned higher marks in the free program.

Chen told reporters that because he’d already fallen so many times, he “just decided to go out there and throw down and see what happens.”

 

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