"I love skating; a big part of me is being taken away because I can't be on the ice," Nathan Chen tells PEOPLE

By Adam Carlson and Eric Todisco
May 20, 2020 01:12 PM
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Nathan Chen Says He Feels Like ‘Part of Me Is Being Taken Away’ While He Can’t Skate Due to COVID-19
Credit: Courtesy Nathan Chen

Adjusting to life without figure skating has been anything but easy for Nathan Chen.

The 21-year-old Olympic figure skater has been sidelined from the sport since March, when the coronavirus pandemic caused the 2020 ISU World Figure Skating Championship to be delayed and then canceled entirely.

The Worlds — intended to take place in Montreal this year — has only been canceled one other time for a reason besides a World War, the first being after the Sabena Flight 548 crash in 1961.

"It's very disappointing," Chen tells PEOPLE. "Worlds — it's the epitome of the season, it's what we're planing for besides Olympic seasons. But non-Olympic years, of course Worlds are our best competitions."

Chen, who was the Worlds single men's champion in both 2018 and 2019, says that he feels "a big part of me is being taken away because I can't be on the ice."

FIGURE SKATING: JAN 27 US Figure Skating Championships
Nathan Chen
| Credit: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire/Getty

Being unable to train has taken its toll on Chen, who admits that he's "kind of turning into a slob" without a specific routine.

"It's nicer to have structure," he says. "Of course, I really like training. I like spending time with my friends, we all push each other."

However, Chen is determined to be ready for whenever figure skating resumes. He says he's even been working out with fellow skater Mariah Bell.

"Right now, the process is just make sure my body doesn't deteriorate and make sure my mind is on skating a little bit," he says.

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Harry How/Getty

Chen is also looking to stay busy this summer with online classes at Yale University, where he just completed his sophomore year as a statistics major.

"Spring break, we got an email being like 'Please don't come back, we don't want you here, just stay where you are, stay home,' " he recalls. "Since then everything's been online."

Nathan Chen
Credit: Atsushi Tomura/International Skating Union/getty

Chen has made sure to have some fun while social distancing by rewatching the Harry Potter films, reading more, and taking up the piano.

He's even gotten into TikTok — but insists that he hasn't made an actual account.

"I've been observing TikToks. I don't actually have an account, however, their algorithm has definitely picked up on my viewing patterns," Chen says.

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