All about figure skater Karen Chen, who dropped out of Cornell to pursue her Olympic dreams

As she prepared to travel to Beijing, Karen Chen posted a short update on her Instagram page.

“Two words: anxiously excited,” she captioned the photo showing the red, white and blue uniforms Team USA donned for the opening ceremonies.

After a disappointing end in PyeongChang four years ago, the American figure skater has vowed to return to the Olympics to improve her performance.

“When I came off the ice, I remember thinking to myself, ‘You have to go for another four years. It was not your dream,” Chen said at a recent press conference.

The years that followed saw Chen overcome injuries, complete his freshman year at Cornell University, and troubleshoot how to train during a global pandemic.

Now 23, Chen has already won an Olympic medal in Beijing in the team figure skating event.

She returns to the ice this week in individual competition, buoyed by the momentum of team success but focused on her personal goals.

“When I’m at a competition, I need to trust myself and know that I’ve done all the training I can, and whatever happens, happens,” Chen explained in an interview with Cornell. “Sometimes it’s just not your moment, but other times it is, and it just clicks.”

1. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Cornell University.

Chen changed his focus after the 2018 Olympics, enrolling at Cornell University in Ithaca with the intention of studying human biology, health, and society.

Juggling training and studying was a challenge, but Chen said she enjoys making friends outside of her close-knit skating circle and living in the dorms. Her Instagram page is littered with images of her days in Ithaca, wearing the school color red, which is also Chen’s lucky color. She skated on campus at Lynah Rink, even performing an exhibition program between periods at a Cornell hockey game.

“My schedule is really busy,” she told the Cornell Daily Sun in early 2020. “If I’m not at the rink or the gym, I’m studying. I wish I could say I I understood everything, but I’m not there yet.

“However, knowing that balancing school and skating is something I want to do for myself gives me the courage and determination to figure it out, no matter how difficult it gets.”

The pandemic changed his plans: After a virtual semester, Chen decided to take time off to focus on his Olympic training.

She’ll be on the pre-med track when she returns to Cornell in the fall.

GRENOBLE, FRANCE – NOVEMBER 19: Karen Chen of the United States competes in the ladies’ short program during the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating – French Open at Polesud Ice Rink on November 19, 2021 in Grenoble, France. (Photo by Joosep Martinson – International Skating Union/International Skating Union via Getty Images)International Skating Union via

2. She was a published author before she was 18.

Chen signed a book deal with HarperCollins Publishers when she was 17. Her autobiography, “Finding the Edge: My Life on the Ice,” includes a foreword by her skating idol and mentor, Olympic gold medalist Kristy Yamaguchi.

“I wish I could remember the first time I put on a pair of skating shoes and slid down that big frozen circle,” Chen wrote in his book. “After all, who wouldn’t want to remember the moment they fell in love?”

The book is a glimpse into the young skater’s life and figure skating career, with vulnerable moments about her motivations and challenges.

“I wanted to show people that if you work hard, never give up and believe in yourself, you can be successful,” she said when promoting the book. “I hope readers will take away a message about the importance of dedication and resilience and apply it to their own challenges and goals.”

3. She wears reminders of her family while she skates.

Chen wears a jade necklace when she competes which was given to her by her grandparents when she was born. The rabbit-shaped pendant is a nod to her zodiac sign; she started wearing it on and off the ice after suffering a foot injury when she was 9 years old.

“I still wear it today and whenever I feel a little uncomfortable or anxious I find myself touching the bunny-shaped jade pendant for reassurance,” she shared with NBC. Olympics.

Chen’s costume for her free skating routine – a beautifully detailed lilac dress that floats as she skates – was created by her mother, Hsiu-Hui Tseng.

Chen said her favorite part of the costume was a strategically placed butterfly made of crystals, a nod to her music, “Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto.”

“She probably does 90% of the work, and I like 10%,” Chen explained in a video shared on Team USA’s TikTok account. “And at 10%, I’m just like, ‘Oh, that looks good’ or ‘That doesn’t look good’. She puts her blood and sweat and tears into it.

Hsiu-Hui Tseng has her own connection to upstate New York: She earned a master’s degree from Syracuse University alongside her husband, Chih-Hsiu Chen.

The couple invested in their daughter’s skating career very early on.

“As I became more and more interested in the sport, my mother’s competitive nature and my father’s patience rubbed off on me, which helped me develop my desire to succeed in this sport. sport while understanding that goals take time and confidence to achieve,” she said. said in an interview in December.

ISU World Team Trophy - Day 3

OSAKA, JAPAN – APRIL 17: Karen Chen of the United States competes in the Women’s Singles Free Skating during day three of the ISU World Team Trophy at Maruzen Intec Arena Osaka on April 17, 2021 in Osaka, in Japan. (Photo by Koki Nagahama – International Skating Union/International Skating Union via Getty Images)International Skating Union via

4. Her younger brother competes in ice dancing.

Karen Chen’s younger brother, Jeffrey, competes in ice dancing competitions and has won junior titles in national and international competitions.

“I didn’t really like skating at first when I started,” he said in an interview for Team USA. “But then Karen was my inspiration for skating. Watching her compete and improve was really motivating.

Along with partner Katarina Wolfkostin, Jeffrey Chen stepped out of his sister’s shadow, winning a bronze medal at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“I think I’ve come to be known more and more as Jeffrey,” the young Chen said of constructing his own identity. “At first it was always, ‘That’s Karen Chen’s problem there’, but I think getting out there, competing and getting more experience helped everything.”

5. She refers to herself as “the silent assassin.”

You wouldn’t expect Chen to be shy because of her boldness on the ice, but her shyness is actually what fuels her courage when skating.

She revealed the nickname “Quiet Assassin” ahead of her Olympic debut in PyeongChang.

“I’m small, I’m still very shy, I’m very quiet,” she explained. “But especially when I’m on the ice, I try to be as fearless and fierce and strong and powerful as possible, and that to me is what a silent assassin is.”

6. She overcame serious injuries.

Chen suffered a broken ankle while practicing a triple Lutzer in 2013, and she pulled out of the U.S. Championships in 2019 to focus on her health.

Chen later revealed on Instagram that she suffered a stress fracture after pushing herself “a little too fast too soon”, which left her out for an entire season.

7. She once won an Olympic medal in Beijing.

Chen was part of the team figure skating event, where each discipline – women’s, men’s, pairs and ice dance – skates two programs and the scores are combined to determine a winner.

Team USA won the silver medal last week, with Chen skating strong in her long program after falling in her short program.

The event was marked by controversy. As the teams gathered after the final scores, news broke that American skater Vincent Zhou had tested positive for Covid-19 and would not be able to compete in further Olympic competition.

Days later, the official medal ceremony was also delayed following doping allegations against Russian skater Kamila Valieva, the 15-year-old phenom who propelled her team to gold with a pair history of quadruple jumps.

The fallout from the controversy could lead to the disqualification of the Russian team, paving the way for a gold medal for the American team.


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