By Elaine Lies
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – After falling in a trademark jump on Olympic ice and making several other mistakes in competition, some skaters might call it a day. But not Nathan Chen.
The 18-year-old American, in his first outing on Olympic ice for the team skating event at the weekend, went straight from his disappointing performance right back to the rink for practice.
“That was my own idea,” said Chen on Thursday of his move from competition to the mixed zone, where athletes meet the press, and then down to the practice rink in the basement of the Gangneung Ice Arena.
“Actually I didn’t even realize I could do that,” he told a news conference.
“But I looked at the schedule and thought ‘hey, I have practice right now, great, I’m just going to go down.’ I wasn’t actually sure how much time I had left but… so I just figured I’d skate until they told me to get off the ice.”
Each athlete is given practice time, in groups, at both of the arena’s rinks from early morning until late at night, and Nathan realized his group was on.
“I got a good 20 minutes in. It was nice to be able to just redo the things I didn’t do so well in the short program, and just to sort of settle my mind, and just try get a little extra work in,” said Chen.
That time really helped him, he added, although he has also spent several days training at another rink to get in even more practice than available at the Olympic arena.
“Honestly, that practice session was really, really good. It was a little disappointing to put a program like that out there during competition, and then not even 10 minutes later skate like I wanted to,” he said.
“But again, it was a good learning experience for me, there’s always good things that come out of any bad situation.”
The United States took bronze in the team competition despite Chen’s performance. The men’s singles event kicks off with the short program on Friday.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)