Nathan Chen’s Salt Lake City Upbringing Fueled His Olympic Dreams


Feb. 6 2022, Published 1:26 p.m. ET

Nathan Chen
Source: Getty Images

Based on recent Google searches, it seems some Olympics fans are curious to know if Nathan Chen is Mormon. That question is understandable: Nathan hails from Salt Lake City, a Utah metropolis that was founded by Mormon pioneers and a place that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints still calls home.

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Unfortunately, we don’t know what religious views Nathan has, if any. The only “faith” we’ve uncovered for the 22-year-old is his “faith in [his] teammates” at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing!

But if Salt Lake City didn’t influence Nathan’s beliefs, it definitely got him started on his path to Olympic glory…

Salt Lake City’s Olympic history gave Nathan the “inspiration to want to chase those dreams.”

Nathan’s parents, Hetty Wang and Zhidong Chen, immigrated to the United States in 1988, settling first in Carbondale, Ill., and then relocating to Salt Lake City four years later. “They tend not to talk too much about their struggles, but it must have been so difficult, coming to a new country, not speaking the language, not having much money, not having any friends,” Nathan told The New York Times in 2018. “It’s amazing how they were able to fight through that.”

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Nathan was born in Salt Lake City in 1999, a little over two years later before the city hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics, the most recent time a United States city has hosted the Winter Games.

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“I think being able to grow up in Salt Lake City where the 2002 games were held just instilled a sense of what the Olympics were all about right at very start of my career,” Nathan told CNN earlier this month. “Every day going to the rink, I’d pass through the Salt Lake City [Olympics] memorabilia — the cauldron, all the rings everywhere, pictures of all the athletes, all these things. You see that every single day, you’re like, ‘Dang, it’s really cool to be an Olympian.’”

He went on: “So I think being able to grow up like that — and then recognize how cool the Olympics were — just gave me the excitement and inspiration to want to chase those dreams myself.”

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Nathan also studied ballet at Salt Lake City’s Ballet West Academy, giving him a “competitive edge” in his skating.

As Nathan grew up in Salt Lake City, he studied figure skating, gymnastics, and hockey, and he also studied ballet for six years at the Ballet West Academy. “My training and ballet background definitely gives me the competitive edge on the ice,” he said in a 2017 interview, per The Salt Lake Tribune.

“He had such mastery of his body,” Peter Christie, Ballet West’s former academy director, told the Tribune. “You’d have kids backstage who wanted to goof around,” Christie said, “and he was watching, analyzing, watching performances and focusing on what’s happening.”

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Christie also said it was “not at all surprising” that his former student made it to the Olympics. “In our vocabulary, it was, ‘When you’re at the Olympics.’ We saw all the evidence going into competitions and him winning everything.”


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