Nathan Chen fell last week and he has not stopped falling.
The 18-year-old two-time national figure skating champion took the ice on Friday afternoon at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, for the second of two short programs, this time in the men’s individual event
Though he improved on his total score, earning an 82.27 compared to an 80.61 for his short program last week in the figure skating team event, he fell twice and slipped almost from the start.
Speaking to the press afterward, Chen said he “made as many mistakes as I possibly could have.”
Nicknamed the “quad king” for his historic ability to land a string of quadruple jumps in a single routine, he came into these Games as America’s likeliest shot at the podium in the men’s figure skating event.
But his Olympic debut on Feb. 8, in the men’s short program for the team event, was undercut by a disappointing fall, though his fellow skaters on Team USA were strong enough to earn a bronze overall.
His performance on Friday all but erases the possibility of an individual medal.
Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic champion, is No. 1 heading into the second part of the event, with a total score of 111.68, and could be the first repeat men’s gold medalist in figure skating in more than 60 years.
“It was rough again,” Chen told reporters after competing. “I still need some time to think about it. It happens, and I guess I try to move on from here.”
“Honestly, it was bad,” Chen said, adding, “Everything seemed right, but there were little mistakes here and there.”
Such disappointment appeared somewhat confounding for the teen phenomenon, who came to Korea on the heels of his best skating season to date.
“I thought I did everything right going into this,” he said. “Things just didn’t click together.”
Chen will next return to the ice on Saturday for the men’s free skate, his final competitive routine at the 2018 Olympics.
“I’ll just try to take it in and move on from here,” he said, though a clear path did not seem obvious.
“I’ll just talk to my team. I am not sure exactly what to do,” he said. “I think I will just recover and try to do my best for the free.”
Chen was quick to receive encouragement both from his teammates and other Olympic skaters.
“My heart goes out to @nathanwchen so much rn. I feel you. I really do. We all do,” fellow Team USA skater Karen Chen tweeted later Friday. “However, I still believe that you will KILL IT in the long. Bruh, we seriously all BELIEVE in youuuu! You got this!”
Scott Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic men’s gold medalist, echoed that in a tweet of his own to Chen: “I respect you. I admire you. I believe in you. Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow is up to you! #GoGetEm.
Speaking to PEOPLE last fall, Chen described his ambition and resolve: “There are times when as an athlete or as a person you kind of lose some motivation for what you’re doing, but for me my biggest goal is to make that Olympic team.”
“My biggest goal is to be on that podium for the Olympics,” he said then, “and every single day when I wake up, I know that’s my goal and what I’m working for — I’ve worked my entire life for this moment and I’m not just going to give it up that easy.”