9 Things You Didn't Know About Figure Skater Nathan Chen, Including His Pre-Routine Ritual

Nathan Chen and figure skating go together like peanut butter and jelly: sure, maybe they can exist without the other, but they're so much better together. The Salt Lake City native recently qualified for the 2022 Winter Olympics after showcasing a stunning routine at the US Figure Skating Championships, marking his sixth consecutive nationals title — a feat that hasn't been accomplished in more than 70 years. Known as the king of quadruple jumps (he's basically the Simone Biles of Olympic figure skating), Chen has also racked up an impressive number of medals and titles over the years, including three world titles and one Olympic bronze medal.

Come February, all eyes will be on Chen as he fights to outperform his longtime rival, Japanese skater Yuzuru Hanyu, and earn his way back to the Olympic podium. Until then, here are some interesting facts you should know about the Olympian.

— Additional reporting by Jen Glantz

He Grew Up Training in an Olympic Host City

Chen had Olympic-sized dreams from a very young age, and a lot of that was due to his hometown having hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. Training in Salt Lake City meant access to a state-of-the-art ice rink, allowing him to envision the Olympic experience. "I remember training at [SLC Sports Complex] with Apolo's [Anton Ohno] face right on the wall and the Olympic rings right next to [me]," Chen recalled during an interview with US Figure Skating. "Also, driving to the rink, I'd pass the Olympic torch. So to see that, just to be in an Olympic environment, was super beneficial to me and an amazing experience."

He Does 2 Specific Things Before Every Competition

Speaking with Us Weekly, Chen dished that his pre-competition ritual always includes jamming out to Eminem and putting on his left skate before his right. Given his successful track record, it's pretty clear he's got this whole pre-competition ritual figured out.

Michelle Kwan and Kristi Yamaguchi Inspired Him to Follow His Dreams

As a child of Chinese immigrants growing up in a predominately white community, Chen struggled during his childhood to find hometown heroes he could look up to for inspiration. After Asian American athletes Michelle Kwan and Kristi Yamaguchi broke onto the figure skating scene, Chen's self-confidence and excitement about the sport skyrocketed. "Growing up in Salt Lake City, where most of my classmates and fellow athletes were predominately white, you don't see that reflection of yourself as easily," Chen told YaleNews. "I see myself in these athletes, and I see how capable they are and how talented they are. If they can do it, hopefully I can do the same thing, too. Being able to see a face like yours helps a lot as an athlete."

His College Music Class Influenced His Free Skate Routine at the 2021 Worlds Competition

In addition to being one of the world's best figure skaters, Chen is also a student at Yale. In 2021, he took real-world application of classroom learning to a whole other level when he incorporated a song by composer Philip Glass, which he had originally heard in his Listening to Music class, into his free skate routine for the 2021 World Figure Skating Championships. He told YaleNews that understanding the song from an academic standpoint allowed him to connect more emotionally to the song on the rink.

He Trained at a Ballet Academy For Nearly 7 Years

Had figure skating not worked out, Chen might have had a promising career as a classically trained ballet dancer. The Olympian dedicated nearly seven years to the craft before redirecting all of his energy and focus solely into figure skating. Looking back, Chen has fond memories of his time at Ballet West Academy in Salt Lake City. In fact, he wishes ballet was something he could incorporate more into his figure skating today. "When I watch my skating when I was younger, I definitely see all this balletic movement and this artistry come through," Chen told Icenetwork via Globetrotting. "When I watch my artistry now, it's like, 'Yes, it's still there,' but at the same time, I'm so focused on the jumps, it takes away from it."

He Views Figure Skating as a "Passion Project," Not a Career

Following his fifth-place finish at the Pyeongchang Games, Chen took a moment to reevaluate his outlook on figure skating and realized the sport isn't the end-all, be-all of his existence. "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," he told The Guardian. "All of that sounds a little like I don't necessarily care that much about skating, but skating is important and that's what I've been doing all my life. At some point I will have to take a step away from skating."

Rather than dwelling on the past, Chen is using his experience as an opportunity for growth. "Every competition is just a great opportunity for me to show the work that I've been putting in as well as just to know that I have a limited number of competitions in my life," he said.

He Is the First Male Figure Skater to Land 5 Quadruple Jumps

Chen is known for his remarkable talent in jumps and acrobatic moves, so it's no surprise that he's constantly raising the bar for new skills in competitions. Chen accomplished the seemingly impossible in figure skating, becoming the first man to ever land five quadruple jumps in a single program at the 2017 Nationals. He attempted six quadruple jumps in a free skate at the World Championships in 2017 and might just surprise us with another attempt at the 2022 Winter Games.

He Credits His Mother With His Success

Wondering who Chen attributes much of his success to? That would be his mother. According to NBC Olympics, Chen calls her the most influential person in his career because she was the one who helped him begin to skate, find his love for the sport, and push him through hard times. Chen even recently hinted on his Instagram that he and his mother would be starring in an Olympic-inspired Toyota commercial, so it's safe to say you should stock up on tissues now. "Watch out hollywood, mama Chen coming for you," he wrote in the caption.

Vera Wang Designed His Costume For the US Championships

Figure skating fashion can be as avant-garde and eye-popping as looks from the Met Gala. Chen was excited to show off his costume for the US Championships, designed by the one and only Vera Wang. Wang isn't just Chen's designer — she's also clearly a fan and supporter, rooting for the skater through his competitions. Wang can often be seen commenting on Chen's Instagram posts with words of encouragement and all sorts of smiling and cheering emoji.