The happiness and excitement was palpable as Nathan Chen held up his first Olympic gold medal on the "Today Show" Thursday morning.
“It’s very heavy. It's heavier than I was expecting. But yeah, it's beautiful. I'm so thrilled to have it,” Chen said.
He won the gold medal in the men’s single’s competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
During Chen’s first two years at Yale, he would spend hours on the ice, skating at different rinks across Connecticut, including the Champions Skating Center in Cromwell.
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Nick Gambacini found himself lucky enough to witness Chen honing his craft during some of those practice sessions.
“When somebody comes through and they do a quad, the hang time alone. It's just, it's pretty wild. It's pretty amazing to see,” said Gambacini.
Bob Crawford, a part owner of the rink in Cromwell and a former Whaler, NY Ranger, Saint Louis Blue and Washington Capitol, said Chen actually practiced with other skaters on the rink.
"He didn’t ask to skate on the ice by himself. He did his routines, his skating while the other kids were on the ice, respectful of where he was on the ice. All those kids obviously had the opportunity of a lifetime to be around someone like that and he was just one of the skaters and wanted it that way. So maybe that’s part of his ability to focus,” said Crawford.
Gambacini, who was out on the ice Thursday morning, watched Chen’s free skate performance and saw some breathtaking moments, as well as enjoyed his freestyle.
“You just see the hard work and the years of dedication, especially when it comes down to the technique and some of the jumps, his approach, his entry. It's all done very properly,” said Gambacini.
Adam Bouaziz and Eliza Lowe are skating partners who also skate on that same rink Chen trained on.
“Well, it's pretty cool to know that you're like, kind of in the same area that he was, able to skate in the same rink,” said Adam Bouaziz, a skater from Colchester.
“It's really good for especially the younger ones to have a lot of inspiration to see him win in the Olympics,” said Eliza Lowe, a skater from Colchester.
Chen said on the "Today Show" that he is excited to come back to Yale in the fall to continue his education and Crawford said they’re looking forward to him returning.
“Congratulations. We’re extremely proud of you and our kids are all the better for having met you, our figure skating kids and the community as a whole. Continued good luck and we'll see you when you come back to Yale,” said Crawford.