Get to Know Figure Skater and Author Karen Chen Ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics

After competing in the 2018 Winter Games and recovering from an injury that kept her from competing during the 2018-2019 season, Karen Chen is more than ready to take on the 2022 Winter Olympics. The 22-year-old figure skater from Fremont, CA, recently qualified for the 2022 Winter Games after skating to an outstanding fourth-place finish at the 2021 World Championships.

With her eyes on the prize and three national bronze medals around her neck, Chen has quickly become a Team USA favorite heading into Beijing. And Chen's accomplishments outside of the rink are just as impressive, too. Not only is she a talented artist and Cornell student, but she's also a published author. Learn more about Chen ahead, and be sure to cheer her on in Beijing during her figure skating program!

— Additional reporting by Emily Cappiello

She Credits Her Parents For Her Competitiveness and Patience

"Since I was a really shy kid growing up, trying new things was extremely challenging," Chen told NBC Olympics. She added that had it not been for her parents' loving push, she doesn't know if she would have had the confidence to skate at such young age. As her career has grown, so has her appreciation for her parents, whom she credits for teaching her how to be both competitive yet patient.

"As I got more and more into this sport, my mom's competitive nature and my dad's patience rubbed off on me, which helped me grow my desire to succeed in this sport while still understanding that goals take time and trust to come true."

Her Lucky Color Helped Her Choose What College to Attend

During the college application process, the 22-year-old knew Cornell was toward the top of her list. However, upon seeing the campus ice rink decked out in her lucky color, she was sold. "After I visited for Cornell Days, I just really loved the campus . . . going to the rink, it was just a lot of fun," she told NBC Sports. "I got to skate for a little bit. The ice was good. The whole building is red, which I believe red is my lucky color. So I was like, 'this is the rink!'"

Figure Skating Influenced Her College Major

For Chen, enrolling in Cornell University's School of Human Ecology was a no-brainer. Even before qualifying for Pyeonchang 2018, she knew that she wanted to have a career in medicine. "I'm hoping to get involved in the medical field just because I've dealt with so many injuries and I've really learned to appreciate what [medical professionals] do. I think it's very cool and something worth trying," she said during a US Figure Skating panel.

Chen is a human biology, health, and society major on the pre-med track at Cornell University in New York but is taking a break from classes to train for the 2022 Winter Games.

Her Favorite Hobby Is Painting

When the Olympian does get a break in her busy schedule, she finds solace in her favorite childhood pastime, painting. "[Painting is] something I used to do all the time. I would go to an art class once a week growing up," she recalled to US Figure Skating. "After I got really dedicated to skating, that kind of died a little bit. But when I do have time, I love drawing, sketching, painting, and working with oil pastels." Chen's art portfolio mostly includes abstract paintings, but every now and then, she turns to nature for inspiration.

She's Opened Up About the Social Obstacles That Come With Figure Skating

There's no doubt that figure skating has opened up several doors for Chen, but it's also left some doors jammed shut. In November 2020, she took part in the #AsSheIs Instagram challenge and shared how the ice sport has negatively impacted her social life, specifically when it comes to building female friendships.

"There is no question in my mind that growing up in a solo sport has taught me so much. however, the nature of this sport has definitely led me along this mindset of having a v competitive relationship with other females whether in or out of sport. to be perfectly honest, sometimes it feels more like a burden than a source of motivation for me," she wrote on Instagram.

Moving across the country allowed Chen to challenge this obstacle head on. "This sense of realization hit me around a year ago (perhaps my college experience @cornelluniversity helped me gain perspective about how skating isn't my whole entire life) & i feel like i'm learning to appreciate & be inspired by my peers in all sorts of different ways! i really believe that supporting one another & building those strong female relationships is the key to a brighter & happier future!"

Kristi Yamaguchi Is Her Mentor and Very Close Friend

Not many people can say their hero is also their mentor — let alone a close friend — but those rules do not apply for Chen. Growing up in the same hometown as Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, Chen developed a tight-knit bond with the skating icon early on in her career.

As a preteen, she remembers Yamaguchi making surprise practice visits and giving her pointers. Their relationship eventually blossomed into a friendship, especially when Chen asked her to write the forward for her book Finding the Edge: My Life on the Ice. "I knew that as long as I asked, she would do anything to help me," she told KSDK News. Outside of the rink, they also volunteer together.