BEIJING, China — Nathan Chen soared effortlessly and nearly perfectly five times during his “Rocketman” performance. When his skates touched down for the final time in a historic arena in Beijing, he was an Olympic gold medalist.
Chen, whose parents immigrated from China, had a memorable free skate to finally put behind him the immense disappointment from four years ago, when a nightmarish short program in South Korea dashed his medal hopes.
Skating his “Rocketman” program set to the film score by Elton John, the 22-year-old Chen landed all five of his quads to leave no question he was the best in the world. He finished with 332.60 points, three off his own world record and 22 ahead of silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama of Japan. Shoma Uno of Japan took bronze.
It was the United States’ best day yet at the Beijing Games, giving the Americans a total of three gold medals and nine overall.
“It means the world. I’m just so happy,” said Chen, who was relaxed and expressive throughout his routine.
Chen, who is from Salt Lake City, took off with an opening quad salchow. He effortlessly landed four more quads. He had a slight bobble on a late combination sequence.
When his scores were read, coach Rafael Arutyunyan raised Chen’s left arm like a championship boxer.
In the Capital Indoor Stadium, where the United States and China played the first matches of the pingpong diplomacy in 1971, Chen made some history of his own by capping one of the most dominant four-year runs in skating history. Since his disappointment in Pyeongchang, Chen has won three straight world championships — the 2020 competition was canceled because of the pandemic — and extended his run of national championships to six.
Chen is the first American figure skating champion since Evan Lysacek in 2010.