Experts credit Chen with revolutionizing figure skating with his athleticism and jumping ability. He was the first skater to hit seven quadruple jumps in a single competition, and is the only man in the world to receive credit for landing five different types of quadruple jumps in international competition.
Chen entered the 2018 U.S. Championships as the only undefeated male skater in the 2017-18 season, winning two Grand Prix Series titles and the Grand Prix Final.
Chen trains in Lakewood, CA at the RINKS, one of eight SoCal skating facilities operated by the Anaheim Ducks. His coach is Rafael Arutyunyan, who has a coaching residency at the RINKS leading into the Olympic Winter Games. Along with Chen, his student Adam Rippon made the U.S. Olympic Team, and students Ashley Wagner and Mariah Bell were named as alternates.
Irvine’s winter sports profile will likely grow in coming Olympic games, especially with the 270,000-square-foot Great Park Ice Complex opening later this year at the Great Park. The state-of-the-sport Anaheim Ducks ice complex and practice facility will include four sheets of ice, one of which will seat 2,500 spectators. Three sheets will be NHL-size, while the fourth will be Olympic-size. It will be one of the largest ice facilities of its kind in the country.
The ice complex will likely become a destination for SoCal high school hockey leagues to host tournaments, and will also be home to public recreational skating, competitive and recreational figure skating, curling, broomball and community events. There will also be a part-time training center, concessions, locker rooms and shops selling skating gear.
Would the Ducks/RINKS organization encourage top coaches like Arutyunyan to move training operations to Irvine? Time will tell, but don’t be surprised if the future sees many more Olympians, summer and winter, from our city.
Irvine has produced some 30 Olympians over the years,
and UCI claims 53 Olympians and Paralympians
The 2016 Summer Olympics team included UCI Men’s Volleyball All-American and national champion David Smith, who helped the U.S. Indoor Men’s Volleyball team take the bronze medal; tennis player Eva Lee; former UCI All-American Charles Jock; and Kevin Tillie, also a volleyball national champion at UCI, who competed for France.
Natasha Watley (left) is one of the top Irvine athletes of all time. Born in Irvine in 1981, Watley was a star softball player at Woodbridge High School and a four-time All American at UCLA. She won a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics as part of the U.S. team, and a silver medal in Beijing in 2008.
After the 2012 Olympics, the Irvine City Council honored silver medal-winning swimmer Jason Lezak, the Irvine High School graduate and city resident who also won four gold medals at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics. Lezak is one of the illustrious Olympians from the Irvine Novaquatics team that has included Amanda Beard and Aaron Piersol.