Figure Skating: From the Boards

Magic in the Coliseum – Greensboro 2011 January 24, 2011

Every now and then, some small child comes across your path and makes you stop, marvel, and say, “Remember him. Someday, when he’s famous, I want to say I saw him first!”

While I didn’t have the privilege of ooing and awing over a tiny Michelle Kwan, those who did say she was the stuff legends are made of right from the start. Others can speak the same of skaters from the past.

That, my friends, is what I thought when I first saw Nathan Chen. I posted back in the summer about the first time I saw Nathan. We skated at the same rink when he was only 4 years old, just learning a proper scratch spin. I saw an article on him in the paper and told my mom, “Remember his name. When he’s famous, I can say I skated with him!”

Fast forward to last year’s Nationals where he soared onto the scene, blowing everyone away with his advanced abilities and his larger-than-life personality. He was and ABC Person of the Week last year (check out that story and video here).

Then, fast forward once again, this time to a rink in Greensboro, NC, just hours after Canadian Patrick Chan stunned the world with a Free Skate so technically demanding, and even more artistically stunning, that an audience leapt to its feet as he entered the final spin, the next generation version of Patrick Chan – Nathan Chen – took home a second Novice gold by a mere 36 point margin!

While the crowd was much smaller in the arena, the reaction was the same. As his scores flashed onto the screen, shrieks and shouts filled the Coliseum. These fans, and those like myself watching at home via, new they had seen something so special that they wanted to claim it right away. They want to be able to say years from now that they saw his champion potential when he was 11 skating to Franz Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody” and won by a Patrick Chan-like margin.

Now, we all know such young talent isn’t a free ride to world and Olympic glory. See Caroline Zhang from 3 years ago compared to Caroline Zhang now. She was the second coming of Michelle Kwan to many fans, judges, and commentators alike. But things happen – they grow, they try new things, they change coaches, they lose the joy the sport gave them in the first place. More often than not, child-wonders like Chen don’t work out. So there’s no way to predict Nathan’s potential, or what his future might become. But there’s no doubt the possibilities are great.

Having just seen how Canada’s Patrick Chan has become one of the world’s best, I wondered how he would have compared to Chen (especially since I see shades of Chan in Chen’s skating!).

Well, see for yourself: this is a barely 13-year-old Chan when he won the novice gold.

As good as Patrick was, I see so much more in Nathan, namely in the personality he shows with every move.

The first program I ever saw him skate was to “Three Blind Mice” (as a 4-year-old, mind you), and the personality was there from the start. Seeing it now, as he’s developed the rest of his skating, makes him a force to be reckoned with…should he continue to proceed with some kind of caution.

I applaud his parents and his coach for keeping him at the Novice level this year, regardless of ability/age/maturity. That means they’re not pushing, and that’s the best thing they can do for him right now. He skates with such raw talent, and innocent exuberance that inspires me, that directly inspired this post. And I’d hate to see him lose that.

So while we can speculate about what he will become or if he’ll burn out or how his advanced abilities could get him injured, I just want to savor the moment that he created in Greensboro – a moment that reminded me why I love this sport, and what it’s like to spot a kid and know he’s gonna be a star.

Congratulations, Nathan! You won the gold, but stole the hearts of the skating world in the process!


Also, congrats to the complete set of Novice medalists:


1. Nathan Chen 163.40
2. Jordan Moeller 127.85
3. Nix Phengsy 127.48
4. Alexander Bjelde 126.27


1. Hannah Miller 122.30
2. Barbie Long 121.85
3. Mariah Bell 115.33
4. Amanda Hoffman 100.16


1. Madeline Aaron/Max Settlage 128.21
2. Chelsea Liu/Devin Perini 113.90
3. Audrey Goldberg/Joseph Dolkiewicz 109.97
4. Caitlin Fields/Jason Pacini 107.32

Ice Dance

1. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons 112.82
2. Jessica Mancini/Tyler Brooks 109.19
3. Kaitlin Hawayek/Michael Bramante 106.64
4. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Ross Gudis 105.91


Junior events are underway as we press on in Greensboro! Check back to see what inspires me next… 😉

Follow me on twitter for live results/thoughts/play-by-play.

Until then…



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