Nathan Chen's Olympic journey is over, at least for now, but as he packs away his figure skates and gets ready to leave Pyeongchang, he left wishing he had another shot at getting it right where it all went wrong.
Cleanly landing one more jump in his error-strewn short program might have made all the difference, Chen said Saturday, after his epic, audacious and record-setting free skate rocketed him up the standings and almost, but not quite, onto the podium.
"I just do wish that I got another chance at that short program to really redeem myself and also just to show other people that I'm capable of doing it," Chen said in an interview.
He was expected to wow the crowd with five quadruple jumps, but Chen went even further than. He attempted six quads in his Olympic free skate, landing five cleanly, and recorded a personal-best score of 215.08. It was the highest score in the free skate by nearly nine points.
The 18-year-old quad-jumping phenomenon had been touted as a possible gold medal contender, landing five quads as he won the U.S. national championships. No one had ever done that at the Olympics, and the technical score he would get for landing them would make him a formidable opponent.
But following a shaky performance in the team skate early in the Games, Chen missed every one of his jumps in the individual short program. The highest score any of his jumps received was a 9.60, while the top skaters each had a jump of at least 16 points and three worth more than 10. People wrote off his chances of medaling entirely.
Yet after his six-quad free skate, Chen finished off the podium by only about seven points.
The missed jumps were something Chen would rue later on.
"If I didn't step out of the axel or if I obviously didn't fall out of the lutz in the short program I would have been, you know, possibly on that podium," Chen said Saturday.
At the same time, Chen only unleashed his unprecedented free skating program knowing his back was to the wall after that skate. It was "the smartest approach," he told the "Today" show, though he also admitted that he didn't tell his coach he was going to go for it.
"I had nothing to lose at that point, I already had made all these mistakes in the short program," Chen said. "Honestly, at that point, if I had a couple more falls in the long it wouldn't have changed anything."
The performance drew rave reviews, even if it didn't win him a medal. Cameras caught Chen on his phone afterward, and he explained on "Today" that it's because "my phone was blowing up" with friends and family cheering him on in text messages and on Twitter and Instagram.
Chen said the free skate gave him the kind of ending he wanted for these Olympics, where he loved seeing the unity off the ice among athletes from different countries, and had a great time.
"I'm so glad that I was able to put out a program like that before I finished competing. I wouldn't want to end my Olympic experience with the two short programs," Chen told "Today."
As for whether he'd try a repeat performance at the Beijing Games in 2022, he only told "Today" that he'd be setting his sights on it.