US Olympic Figure Skater Nathan Chen said he was “surprised” at how “normal ” the 2022 Winter Olympics felt despite the fact that they were held in the middle of a pandemic.
The athletes “were under the assumption that it’d be really different,” Chen said, speaking to Insider while promoting a new partnership with Invisalign. “It was circumstantially a little different.”
“It still felt like a great experience,” Chen continued. “We all, the athletes, still had a really great time and overall just felt like a very fulfilling Olympic experience.”
At the Beijing Olympics, COVID restrictions were tight: There were no audience members allowed to watch the athletes compete in their events and their family members had to stay home since they weren’t allowed to enter China.
Still, Chen said he made new friends at the Olympics, which he said was the best part of being there.
“The villages are kind of spaced apart, so I spent most of my time with the figure skaters, hockey players, curlers, and speed skaters. I made quite a few speed skating friends, which they’re all really great, and a few other hockey friends as well,” Chen said.
Chen said he went into the Olympics with the “intent to go and try to skate the best that I could, but at the same time, recognize that the Olympics is an amazing opportunity to meet new people, to experience new sports, to be able to feel as though you’re a part of a larger athletic community outside of your sport, which is not an opportunity you get very frequently. And just share commonalities, common interests, common goals.”