Nathan Chen says Simone Biles, Serena Williams have inspired him on mental health journey ahead of Beijing 2022

The three-time world figure skating champ sent messages of support to Simone Biles after Tokyo 2020. But who reached out to him after PyeongChang 2018? Find out. 

2 min By Nick McCarvel
Nathan Chen at Skate America, 2020

World champion figure skater Nathan Chen was paying it forward after the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

The three-time world champ from the U.S. reached out to gymnastics superstar Simone Biles after she withdrew from the artistic gymnastics team final, sending along his support after Simone prioritised her mental health during the Games.

"I think what Simone did at the last Olympics was extraordinarily inspirational and really just allowed all athletes to feel like, 'Hey, we are important as people, not just as athletes,'" Chen, 22, told reporters on a pre- Beijing 2022 media call Monday (18 October), referencing Biles stepping aside as she suffered from a case of the "twisties" in Tokyo.

"And I think that it almost set the precedent, like... I didn't even realize that was an option, what she decided to do. And I was like, 'Wow, that actually makes me feel a lot better about who I am as an athlete, too.' Knowing that, you know, when it comes down to it, I can choose my destiny.'"

It was then that Chen decided to send Biles a message letting her know how he felt about her actions.

"I actually reached out to her after the (Tokyo) Games, but I'm sure she was swarmed with millions and millions of messages," he explained with a laugh. "I was basically voicing my support for what she accomplished, but also the steps that she was taking to take care of herself."

But how was Chen paying it forward, exactly?

After PyeongChang 2018, when Chen - then 18 - struggled to a fifth-place finish in men's singles, he got messages from another golden American female athlete: Serena Williams.

"It was a huge thing for me," Chen said of the message from Williams, a four-time gold medallist.

"She messaged me after the last Olympics, in 2018, when I didn't have the best skate. She was voicing her support for me. It was really, really impactful and meaningful to me. Since then... we've had very, very small nuggets of communication. She's an amazing athlete, an amazing role model and now an amazing mom. It was really amazing for me to have her reach out (to me)."

Chen begins his Olympic figure skating season on Friday (22 October) at Skate America, the first of the Grand Prix Series, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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