How the Pressure Derailed Nathan Chen at the Olympics

Manage Pressure From High Expectations

How to Manage Pressure From High Expectations

Pressure before and during competition is a common hurdle skaters need to overcome.

Perceived pressure is a component of competition that all skaters must face, no matter their age or level of ability.

For some skaters, competition pressure can be so overwhelming that easy elements in their program can take on a whole new level of difficulty.

The more importance placed on an event by a skater, the more pressure that skater will internalize or experience.

For instance, imagine skating in the Olympics… Let’s take it even a step further, imagine you are favored to medal or even win the gold in the Olympics.

US figure skater Nathan Chen knows exactly how excessive pressure can completely ruin a program…

Chen had an absolute total collapse during the short program at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games.

Chen was a favorite to win the gold with his powerful quad jumps. Unfortunately, Chen had a fall on his opening quadruple Lutz to step out and an under rotation jump.

Chen’s performance was a shock to many and his score was so low that he placed 17th out of 24 qualifying skaters.

Chen has been skating since he was three and has dreamed of winning Olympic gold for as long as he can remember.

How can a skater suffer such a complete collapse?

When you have been skating from an early age with high aspirations of the top spot in the world from as long as you can remember, you have set the bar very high–including expectations for yourself.

The expectations increase even more when your coach expects you to win, all the skating world is watching you and you are the focus of the media.

Even though you are competing against the greatest skaters in the world, you don’t want to let everyone down. You believe you must live up to the expectation no matter how high. The pressure you feel to not disappoint is overwhelming.

In a sport where fluidity of movement is critical, excessive pressure becomes your enemy.

With increased pressure comes increased muscle tension coupled with difficulty focusing. It is impossible to skate freely when you feel tense and scattered.

Without the ease of movement on the ice, you end up skating cautiously. As a result, mistakes, poor landings, step outs and falls happen. You are left feeling disappointed and second-guessing your upcoming routines.

In his post-skate interview, Chen appeared incredulous and at a loss for words.

CHEN: “Honestly [my routine] was bad. I made as many mistakes as I possibly could have.”

You can’t do anything about the expectations others have for you but you can lessen the pressure you place on yourself by not adopting others expectations as yours.

How to Manage the Pressure From High Expectations:

Focus on the fun not on the fanfare. Too often, skaters forget why they started skating in the first place…

It is exhilarating to spin through the air, to powerfully jump off the ice or skate gracefully along the surface.

Skate for yourself, not to meet others expectations for you. In addition, let go of the expectations you feel to succeed all the time because of your investment in skating.

Get started today with managing your expectations and stabilizing confidence with “The Confident Figure Skater”: 

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