Olympics-Figure skating-Chinese Americans Chen, Zhou soak up ‘second hometown’ Beijing – Metro US

Olympics-Figure skating-Chinese Americans Chen, Zhou soak up ‘second hometown’ Beijing

Olympics: Figure Skating
Olympics: Figure Skating

(Reuters) – All athletes savour the chance to shine on the Olympic stage but the Beijing Winter Games will be especially meaningful for American figure skaters Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, who have strong family roots in the Chinese capital.

Men’s singles world champion Chen and medal hopeful Zhou are both first generation Americans whose parents migrated from China to settle in the United States.

Chen grew up in Salt Lake City and moved to California to train but has been on a trip down memory lane in Beijing, where his mother’s family hails from.

“I was here when I was 10-years old-ish,” the 22-year-old told reporters.

“I remember going to the Beijing Zoo. So like every time when we’re driving from the (Olympic) Village here, I see the Beijing Zoo and am like, ‘Oh, I was here when I was 10.’

“So it’s kind of cool to be able to see that. Also just hear stories from my mom growing up in Beijing and being like, ‘Wow, you know, I’m here’.

“Hopefully at some point after the Games are over, I’ll be able to explore Beijing a little bit more,” added Chen, who topped the men’s singles component of the team event on Friday with a score of 111.71.

The zoo also triggered childhood memories for 21-year-old Zhou, whose Beijinger parents moved to the United States in the early 1990s and became software engineers in Silicon Valley.

“I had this really good, like, citrus popsicle that I still remember to this day,” said San Jose native Zhou, remembering a 2008 visit to his grandparents in Beijing, the year the city held the Summer Olympics.

“It was orange and yellow. The Chinese people probably know what I’m talking about.

“My grandparents still live here. Much of my extended family does. So this is almost like a second hometown to me.”


Teenage skater Alysa Liu, who will compete in the women’s singles for Team USA, also has Chinese heritage through her Sichuan-born father Arthur.

Arthur Liu fled China after participating in pro-democracy demonstrations in the country at the time of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing.

“Obviously we still love the country of China, even after my dad left because of the government,” 16-year-old Californian Alysa Liu told NBC’s “Today” show in the leadup to Beijing.

“This is still his homeland, and he’s very happy that I get to go to China again … Just going back to China will make me feel good.”

Both Chen and Zhou have imbued their skating with Chinese themes.

At the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, Chen skated to music from the 2009 film ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’, based on the memoir by ballet dancer Li Cunxin, who grew up in poverty in China before defecting to the United States and later moving to Australia.

Zhou will skate in Beijing to music from the 2000 martial arts film ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, which was co-produced and shot in China.

“Everybody is celebrating Chinese New Year right now,” said Zhou.

“It’s the Year of the Tiger, and I was born in the year of the Dragon, so that’s perfect.”

Both Chen and Zhou have fans in China but also critics.

They drew flak on Chinese social media for backing American ice dancer Evan Bates after he criticised China for its human rights record during a media summit last October.

Zhou said at the summit he supported Bates’ comments but wanted to focus on success in Beijing.

“Having concerns about things going on in the political climate or elsewhere is important but not productive towards our primary goal,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Beijing; Editing by Peter Rutherford)