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Meet the extraordinary 2018 figure skating Olympic Team

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Statue of Olympic rings at sunset

The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea is fast approaching and Team USA’s figure skaters are ready to place on the podium. The Olympic Committee has chosen Nathan Chen, Adam Rippon, and Vincent Zhou to represent the men’s singles division and Karen Chen, Mirai Nagasu, and Braddie Tennell in the ladies’ singles division.

At the World Figure Skating Championships, 18-year-old Karen Chen ensured that the U.S. would be able to send three ladies to the 2018 Winter Olympics by skating an almost clean program, placing fourth. Karen has earned bronze at the U.S. National Championships in 2018 and gold in 2017.  In an interview with Tammy Gambill, the U.S. Figure Skating coach who trains Karen, Gambill describes how hard working she is, “I never have to tell her to get to work or get busy, or to get off the wall and stop talking, because it’s always like you’ve done enough, you need to stop now or you need to take a break.”

Karen is an extremely strong skater who is not only hard working and determined, but does well under pressure, making her an ideal athlete to compete at the games this year in Pyeongchang. She thrives in the artistic aspect of her program and has had reliable jumps and spins all throughout this season.

Similarly to Karen, Mirai Nagasu has performed extraordinarily well at international and national competitions. She placed second at the 2018 US National Championships and earned the pewter award (fourth place) at the 2018 NHK Trophy, which is one of the Grand Prix events. Also, she was on the 2010 Olympic team and almost made it in 2014. Mirai stands out from all the other skaters because she has landed triple axels at international competitions. She is the second woman in the U.S. to have done this, as a triple axel is very difficult compared to the other triples performed. The triple axel takes off forward and actually has three and a half revolutions in the air, whereas all other jumps take off backwards and are only three revolutions.

Mirai has made history by landing this jump at the 2017 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. Mirai loves to push herself to new limits and although it proves rewarding, Mirai says that “falling on a triple axel is really brutal.” During the 2018 U.S. Championships, Mirai attempted a triple axel in her long program. Although she fell, she got back up immediately and finished her program with barely any mistakes and ultimately placed second. Mirai’s jumps and her willingness to work hard even when not met with success sets her apart from other figure skaters.

Braddie Tennell is also a very strong technical skater and has beautiful artistry in her programs. At only twenty years old, she made her debut by taking home the gold at the 2018 US Figure Skating Championships. She also earned Team USA a bronze medal at the 2017 Skate America competition, which is one of the international Grand Prix events. She blew the audience away with her stunning elements, especially her tightly rotated jumps. After her performances this season, the Olympic committee nominated her to the 2018 Olympic team. Braddie has proven again and again that she is a reliable skater. She hasn’t had any deductions this season and has consistently high grades of execution, which will give her an advantage in Pyeongchang.

As for the men’s division, Nathan Chen has set a new bar for figure skating. He currently holds the world record of landing five quads in one program, which rewarded him with the gold medal at the 2017 US Championships. He has had tremendous success in his figure skating career and is the US’s best shot at placing on the podium. During the 2017-2018 season, Nathan placed first at the Grand Prix Final, Skate America, Rostelecom Cup, U.S. Classic, and U.S. Championships. All of these competitions are highly competitive major international and national competitions. In an interview with US Figure Skating, Chen believes that consistency is the key to his powerful performances. “I spent a lot of time working on doubles, even singles, doubles, triples, just to get myself up to where I am now,” Chen added. His determination has helped him thrive and will hopefully earn Team USA a medal at Pyeongchang.

Adam Rippon, another member of the 2018 Team USA, has also been breaking records. Adam will be the first openly gay winter Olympian. When asked what it is like being a gay athlete, Adam said, “It’s exactly like being a straight athlete, except with better eyebrows.” Adam believes that he might not be the best technical skater, but that he is the best performer out there. At the 2018 U.S. Championships, Adam fell behind on his technical score but his component, or artistry, score won him the Pewter award. He also earned the U.S. silver medals at 2017 Skate America and 2017 NHK Trophy.

During his long program at Skate America, Rippon dislocated his shoulder attempting a quad lutz. When he initially under-rotated the jump, he hit the ice and tried to absorb some of the impact with his right arm. Momentarily after, Adam grabbed his shoulder and then continued to skate, finishing second in the men’s singles division. The perseverance Adam has displayed has proven that nothing will stand in his way from getting on the 2018 Olympic podium.

Vincent Zhou is the last member of the 2018 U.S. Olympic team, but definitely not the least. His international transition from the junior to senior level has been a major success and in the last year he became the 2017 World Junior champion, 2017 Bavarian Open champion, and 2018 U.S. national bronze medalist. Vincent’s coach Drew Meekins says that “the majority of his motivation comes from within himself, his desire to push himself as far as he can.” Vincent is a passionate skater who loves skating, from landing his quads to expressing himself on the ice. “Landing a quad is the greatest feeling in the world. To be able to do four rotations in the air and come down and land on a piece of metal that’s a quarter of an inch thick, that’s a pretty awesome feeling,” says Vincent in an interview with U.S. Figure Skating. His work ethic and fervency for skating are the perfect making of a future Olympic champion.

With the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang just around the corner, Team USA’s figure skaters are training harder than ever and are more determined than ever. The ladies’ singles and the men’s singles division are ready to compete at the Olympic Games and earn the U.S. medals.

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Meet the extraordinary 2018 figure skating Olympic Team