Nathan Chen recalls driving from his home in Utah to Rafael Arutyunyan’s training camp in Southern California with his mother. He’d just started figure skating a few years before, borrowing his sister’s skates and sleeping in the van to pursue his Olympic ambitions.

Chen sat by Arutyunyan ten years later as his scores were read and his dreams came true.

On Thursday, the 22-year-old Yale student won gold at the Beijing Games with a near-perfect free skate following a world-record-setting short programme. He became the first American figure skater champion since Evan Lysacek in 2010, closing off one of the sport’s most dominant four-year runs.

“When I was a kid, my mother and I were impoverished,” Chen stated. “She would basically scrape together some money to try to pay Raf, and Raf obviously understood the situation and was able to just keep letting me in and take as much money as we could provide him, thanks to his heart’s compassion.”

“I would constantly try to stick it in his pocket,” Chen claimed of Arutyunyan’s attempts to return the money.

Chen was able to deliver something precious to his former mentor on Thursday.

“I’m content. “It was so emotional,” Arutyunyan explained. “He worked it out.” 

Inside the historic capital indoor stadium situated in china, the place where both of them originate from, Nathan Chen landed all of his five quads during the “Rocketman” program which was set to the rising film score by Elton John. He finished the program with an unbeaten total of  332.60 points. It was 22 points ahead of his closest competition. The silver and bronze were won by Yuma Kagiyama and Shoma Uno of Japan. 

Nathan Chen also surpassed his past disastrous experience of four years ago in Pyeongchang where he was not able to win any medal at all because of his performance in the short program. 

“It means the world to me,” he said. “I am just so happy.”

Chen’s gold medal may not be the last he brings home.

The Americans, who finished second to the Russians in the team event on Monday, were awaiting confirmation from the International Olympic Committee and the International Skating Union that the “legal issues” that were causing the medal ceremony to be postponed were related to doping allegations against their most famous skater, Kamila Valieva. This might help the US win the gold medal, Chen’s second. 

“I mean, I don’t think I’m the ideal person to talk about it,” Chen said. “Whatever the scenario, whatever the case, I’m still enthralled with what I was able to do today.”

Last Friday, the Salt Lake City native helped the American team with a successful short programme. Because he skated his free skate on Sunday, Vincent Zhou, who was forced to withdraw from the individual event owing to a positive COVID-19 test, would also receive a gold medal for the United States.

During their short programmes, Chen and his Japanese counterparts distinguished out from the rest of the competition, with Chen breaking the world record with a flawless rendition of “La Boheme.” During the free skate, Kagiyama and Uno committed just enough mistakes on the ice to pave the path for Chen’s coronation.

Uno under-rotated a quad salchow and quad toe loop while skating to “Bolero,” one of the most popular song selections at the Beijing Games, and was consequently penalised for his late-performance combination spin, finishing with 293 points.

Then there was Kagiyama, an 18-year-old who performed his triple toe loop and triple salchow to music from the film “Gladiator.” It was still enough to earn a fist pump and a score of 310.05 points, but not enough to put any pressure on Chen, who was skating across the smooth ice as Kagiyama’s score was revealed.

On Thursday afternoon, Chen performed his first quad salchow in front of a socially distant throng in Beijing and millions watching at home on late-night television. He landed four more clean quads, with only a small stumble on a late combination routine, and couldn’t stop beaming as he appeared to reach for the sky.

“And I think it’ll be a long, long time, ’til touchdown brings me ’round again,” the lyrics to “Rocketman,” which played through the old home of ping-pong diplomacy, felt completely suitable for the occasion.

Chen basked in the spotlight in the rink’s centre before moving out to hear his results, which had become a formality by that point. When they were read, Chen’s long-time coach hoisted his arm triumphantly.

“He deserved it,” said Jason Brown of the United States, who finished sixth. “I’ve had the privilege to fight with him in every world championship, every national championship, and the Grand Prix for the last four years.” There is no one more deserving of this recognition. He worked quite hard. He’s an unusually gifted guy. I am honoured to be a part of the team.”

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