But did you know that the gold medal-winning Olympian is an author and studying statistics and data science at Yale University?
You do now – and can learn more in his debut memoir “One Jump at a Time” (Harper, 240 pp., out Tuesday). The book chronicles everything from his early training days to his heartbreaking setback at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, to his triumphant return to the world stage at the Beijing Winter Olympics this year. (And everything in between!)
But Chen isn’t one to watch his routines back all that much – even when we remark how often we’ve watched that riveting “Rocketman” free skate.
“Being able to relive it through just my memory and the experience of the games is enough,” says Chen, 23, calling from Yale. “So I don’t generally frequent the video.”
The book is careful to educate non-skaters on all things skating. You’ll learn about toe, flip, Lutz, Axel, Salchow and loop jumps. Yes, those are all words that make a lot more sense to ice skaters.
“Everyone hopefully will be able to read the book and enjoy and understand what was happening,” Chen says.
His mom devoted herself to his skating career – a remarkable feat considering Chen is the youngest of five talented children. She’s less hands-on in his collegiate chapter.
“It’s kind of on me, and I appreciate that of her, to be able to just let me experience school and explore for my own sake,” he says.
Chen also shares candid remarks on his mental health and therapy journey. He credits fellow Olympian Simone Biles as being at the forefront of athletes speaking out about mental health.
Part of his journey was learning to flip his internal script from negative self-talk to positive self-talk: “Instead of dwelling on the potential for error, I trained myself to focus on all the times that I had landed a troublesome jump or skated a clean program,” he writes. “The key was to remind myself that if I had done it before, then I could do it again.”
“It was really cool to be able to hear from someone who’s been through so much and more, and to just give me some support and some words of encouragement,” he says of Williams, adding that they’ve “stayed in contact to a small extent.”
Chen still deals with pain as a result from ice skating; he details injury and surgery needed in the memoir as well. But the pain is thankfully “nothing that really impacts me so much that I can’t live a regular life.”
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And a regular life he lives indeed, with most of his time focused on school. It must help that people don’t get starstruck around him.
“I’m glad that I have something that takes up all of my time, and something to focus on, so I don’t really spend time missing skating all that much,” Chen says.
He still makes time for the rink however, and enjoys it. Might he make enough time for an Olympic return come 2026?
He’ll see where he’s at physically and mentally, but school remains the main focus for now.
Though as he ends his epilogue, he’ll “approach whatever comes next – in skating or in life – the same way I always have … one jump at a time.”
Consider us along for the leap.
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