Nathan Chen sets Olympic record with six quad jumps in historic free skate

Nathan Chen was a gold medal contender heading into the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. When he uncharacteristically fell in his short program during the team competition, American fans hoped that he’d gotten his nerves out of the way.

Then he fell and stumbled his way through all three of his jumps in the short program, and it felt like confirmation that the jitters had gotten the best of him – that the 18-year-old just couldn’t rise to meet the moment. He sat at 17th place heading into the free skate with an abysmal 82.27 score.

Nathan Chen attempted six quadruple jumps in his free skate program at the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Getty Images)

Then he took the ice for the final skate of the men’s competition. Chen aimed to become the first skater ever to land five quads in a single program at the Olympics. He cleanly landed the first two, stumbled a bit on the third, then threw three more, including a surprise sixth quad for good measure – setting the bar as high as humanly possible for the skaters that followed him.

Not only did his 215.08 points demolish his previous personal best, it became the fifth-highest free skate score of all time. Only Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Javier Fernandez of Spain have ever earned higher marks in the free program.

Chen told reporters that because he’d already fallen so many times, he “just decided to go out there and throw down and see what happens.”

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Photos: Olympic figure skaters with and without competition makeup