Photo: Robin Ritoss

In a teleconference on Jan. 6, Nathan Chen spoke about his preparation for nationals, the quad Axel, the 2021 World Championships and his impression of Yuzuru Hanyu at Japanese nationals last month.

If Chen wins his fifth straight title at the 2021 U.S. Championships next week, he will be the first man to do so since Dick Button claimed the fifth of seven consecutive national titles in 1950.

Training and preparation for nationals

Things have been going well. Training has been different than a regular season, where time between competitions is always quite short and there is not much time to change gears and focus on more fundamental oriented work. So it has been nice to get a little bit of a break and solely focus on programs. In the meantime, I have been keeping up with some of the skating on the Grand Prixs. I am disappointed that the Final is not happening but thrilled that I have the opportunity to compete at nationals.


“This is a very strange season. I think there are two things. One, of course, is the Olympics — that is on the back of everyone’s mind. The Olympics is coming up in about a year plus and that is the main motivator for most athletes I would assume. I think the second thing is just the fact that I am able to train right now. A lot of people are focused on things that are much more real than skating is, so the fact that I am able to not have other things directly impact me while I am on the ice, and just be able to focus solely on the ice. Just really appreciating the fact that I have training time, healthy training mates and people that are being responsible and staying safe — and going to nationals and having the opportunity to compete.

A lot of people are struggling a lot more than elite athletes, so I don’t think there is much to complain about — like, ‘Oh, I am lacking motivation’ and all this stuff. I am like man, we get this opportunity so make the most of it, and enjoy the fact that we have this opportunity because this is definitely not the same struggle that other people are facing.

World Championships

I would love for Worlds to happen but I am expecting before every competition that they are just going to cancel it. Bottom line, I would love to go to Worlds. If they have it I would love to be there. I am just a little concerned about the virus and the safety of the athletes, and I don’t know what the fans are going to look like (real people or cardboard cutouts) — I am hoping they retain a bubble. But even if that is the case — as long as everyone is safe and it is a responsibly held event … yeah, by all means I would love to be there. But as of now I cannot really say. We will wait to hear and decide then.

Program Changes

It (the free) is basically the same with small modifications here and there. I tried to expand time in the choreo section of the program but it is so technically loaded right now that it is hard for me to steal some time before a certain element just because I need a certain amount of time to prep for a Salchow or a certain amount of time to prep for a toe. We have been trying to reorganize the program so I have a little more time for the choreo step, but beyond that the programs are generally the same.

Quad loop

I would love to do it, but the success (rate) has been quite low recently in practice, so that is sort of a game time decision. If I am able to get my success rate up a little bit then I think that I will have a higher chance of putting it in. If it is going the way it is now, probably not.

Practicing Quad Axel?

No, the risk of these bigger jumps is always imminent so it really depends on the time of the season. Over the summer when I had more time … of course, injury is always a thing, but if anything happened I would have more time to recover. At this point in time, I do not think it is the smartest thing to do. The truth is, I don’t really think it is necessary.

Based on the points system it is really not that much of a value gain over a triple Axel. It is enough to set you aside, but based on the value of the other quads I don’t think it is something that should be entirely focused on. If someone is able to do it that is really cool — and hopefully I see it in the near future so we strive for something new.

Did you watch Yuzuru Hanyu at Japanese nationals? What did you think?

Yes, of course. I am impressed. I know he has been training by himself and training in isolation is pretty tough, so I give him a lot of credit for still being able to stay on top of his game. I think he is looking quite strong. It was a nice break to be able to watch him skating, and Shoma as well. It has been a long time since I have been able to see them skate live so it was nice to see that.

I am looking forward to whatever competition we can have in the future to compete against each other. As I always say, competing with Hanyu is such a unique feeling and experience and I really love it and I always look forward to it.

Competing without an audience

We had a points challenge earlier in the season that was just recorded in our rinks. I think honestly just having that experience helped a lot going into Skate America. So, yeah, going into nationals I think it will probably feel a little more ″natural″ to have cardboard cutouts this time around. And it is nice to see — on the cardboard cutouts — a lot of familiar faces. A lot of Japanese fans go to these competitions and you can see their faces on these cardboard cutouts — so that is also pretty fun.