Skater shoots for the stars
Leading up to the US national figure skating championship, 17-year-old Karen Chen from Fremont, California was regarded as an underdog.
The media shone bigger spotlights on two older skaters with longer careers - Gracie Gold, an Olympic bronze medalist and a two-time national champion, and Ashley Wagner, another bronze medalist and a world silver medalist - which helped lessen the pressure that Chen faced, she told China Daily in an interview.
"No one predicted that I would be able to pull something like that together, so in a way it was a good thing [because] people didn't have their eyes set on me and didn't expect me to skate well," she said.
"Because of that, none of the media bothered me, so I was really able to stay really focused at what I wanted to get done," she said.
She performed to On Golden Pond in her short program, followed by a free-skate set to Jealousy Tango. Chen said she was shocked after leading in the short program, because she had never led before and it was unexpected to her that she would come out on top "because people still doubted" her previously.
But the media are definitely paying attention now: Chen (unrelated to Nathan Chen, photo at right) won her first national title at the 2017 US championships, held in Kansas City in January, beating out her opponents with a total of 214.22 points. The skater also participated in the 2017 Four Continents Championship in Gangneung, South Korea, later this month, followed by the World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, from March 29-April 2.
Born in Fremont and now residing in Hayward, Chen is a senior in high school, and like other young, successful skaters before her, has her eyes on the Olympics: She wants to make it on the Olympic team to compete with her fellow American skaters in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the 2018 Winter Olympics will be held.
"[Getting onto the Olympic team] has been one of my goals for forever, and ever since I was young, it was something I've dreamed about. To think that it could be very possible is such a wonderful thing to know," she said.
Her college plans are on hold because of her rigorous training, which she does in Riverside, California three hours a day on ice, and then two hours off ice to work on cardiovascular strength and balance.
Despite having a more flexible schedule thanks to homeschooling, Chen said her athletic and academic lives can sometimes be difficult.
"It's just a little crazy sometimes," she said, but she's also able to manage her stress because she said she knows what she's capable of on the ice and more importantly, wants to be able to enjoy herself and enjoy her sport.
"I think I really just want to enjoy this moment, because it's my first world championship," she said, referring to Helsinki.
Her biggest role models are former Olympic winners Michelle Kwan, a silver and bronze medalist, and Kristi Yamaguchi, a gold medalist. Asked how it feels that she might be a role model to other even younger skaters, Chen said it's "surreal to know that in my career there may be other kids who just started figure skating, and they see me and they look at me as their role model and they aspire to be [how I am]".
Karen Chen, a 17-year-old skater from Fremont, California, took first place at the US national figure skating championship in January and has dreams of making the US Winter Olympic team. Provided To China Daily
(China Daily USA 03/24/2017 page11)