He may be a two-time Olympian, but to Nathan Chen’s parents, father Zhidong Chen and mother Hetty Wang, he’s just their son.
Nathan, who was raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, is the youngest of five children. His eldest sister, Alice Chen, works in social media for Apple News and lives in New York City. She also has her own candle company, We Are Social Club, and has worked for Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club and production company, Hello Sunshine. “I’m the oldest, so he’ll always be my baby brother,” Alice told Team USA.org in 2017. “It’s been so incredible watching him grow into both the person and the athlete he is now. He’s so strong in every aspect of the word, and I’m really, really proud of how far he’s come and how far he’ll go.” She added, “We’ve watched firsthand the blood, sweat and tears Nathan has been putting into his career over the course of literally his entire life. I can hardly even remember a time when he wasn’t skating; he probably spent more time at the rink than he ever did at home.”
His other sister, Janice Chen, graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and is the co-founder of Mammoth Bioscience, a company dedicated to “improving lives by reading and writing the code of life.” Janice, who also earned her PhD from Doudna Lab at UC Berkley, gave a TedTalk in 2018 about CRISPR diagnostics, which Nathan retweeted a video of on Twitter with the caption: “my sister really did THAT!”
Nathan’s brothers are Tony and Colin Chen. In an interview with Parade magazine in 2017, Nathan revealed that his brothers playing hockey was part of the reason he started ice skating. “I get a rush of adrenaline,” he said. “I want to do it again and again. That definitively has made me super passionate about skating.”
In her interview with Team USA, Alice described Nathan as someone who always puts his “family first.” “Nathan is thoughtful, kind and generous, and goes out of his way to put family first,” she said. “He truly values his relationship with everybody in our family; we don’t get to see each other often, but we are all very, very close.” Despite his successful career, Nathan told the site at the time that he’s still seen as the “baby” of his family. “I’m the baby for sure,” he said. “I’m always the one being taught. I’m always the one who is getting all the new information. My siblings are looking out for me, making sure I’m not doing something stupid. They are making sure my head is set straight and that I’m a good person outside of skating and inside of it, too. They all hyped me to go to the Olympics when I was a little kid. They’re very excited for me.”
Alice also told Team USA that Nathan’s family supports him no matter how he does at the Olympics. “It’s not so much what (making the Olympics) would mean for us, as much as it’s what it would mean for Nathan,” she said. “Either way, he should be proud of everything he’s done to push himself and the sport forward, but I think making the Olympic team would show him that his heart, soul and hard work has paid off – and we all want that for him.”
So who are Nathan Chen’s parents, Zhidong Chen and Hetty Wang? Read on for what we know about Nathan Chen’s parents and how they raised him to be the superstar figure skater he is today.
Who is Nathan Chen’s father, Zhidong Chen?
Zhidong Chen is Nathan Chen’s father. Zhidong and Nathan’s mother, Hetty Wang, were both born around the time the Great Leap Forward in China from 1958 to 1962 when Mao Zedong’s program of industrialization and agricultural collectivization resulted in famine and tens of millions of deaths. They immigrated from Tianjin, China, to the United States in 1988.
They first lived in Carbondale, Illinois, before moving to Salt Lake City, Utah, where Nathan and his four siblings—Alice, Janice, Tony and Colin—were raised. (Nathan is the youngest). In an interview with The New York Times in 2018, Nathan revealed that his parents arrived in the U.S. on his father’s student via. He also told the magazine that his parents didn’t know anyone when they arrived and that his mother couldn’t speak English. Zhidong obtained his medical degree in China and earned his doctorate in pharmaceuticals from the University of Utah. He also owns a small biotech company. “They tend not to talk too much about their struggles, but it must have been so difficult, coming to a new country, not speaking the language, not having much money, not having any friends,” Nathan told The New York Times of his parents. “It’s amazing how they were able to fight through that.”
Who is Nathan Chen’s mother, Hetty Wang?
Hetty Wang is Nathan Chen’s mother. She works as a medical interpreter for Mandarin Chinese for hospitals, according to The New York Times. In an interview with Reuters in 2022, Nathan opened up about what it was like to compete at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, his mother’s hometown. “I was here when I was 10-years old-ish,” he said. “I remember going to the Beijing Zoo. So like every time when we’re driving from the (Olympic) Village here, I see the Beijing Zoo and am like, ‘Oh, I was here when I was 10.’ “So it’s kind of cool to be able to see that. Also just hear stories from my mom growing up in Beijing and being like, ‘Wow, you know, I’m here’. “Hopefully at some point after the Games are over, I’ll be able to explore Beijing a little bit more.”
Because of his Chinese heritage, Chen chose to skate to music from the 2009 movie Mao’s Last Dancer at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. The movie is based on a memoir by ballet dancer Li Cunxin, who grew up in poverty in China before defecting to the United States and later moving to Australia.
Total Olympics by Jeremy Fuchs
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For more about the Olympics, check out Jeremy Fuchs’ 2021 book, Total Olympics: Every Obscure, Hilarious, Dramatic, and Inspiring Tale Worth Knowing. The book, which was called an “indispensable Olympic resource” and “pure fun” by The New York Times, follows the history of the Olympics, from how it began in a a Victorian English town called Much Wenlock to the discontinued sports that are no longer around like tug of war, firefighting, painting and, yes, live pigeon shooting. The bestseller, which features hundreds of true tales and historical photographs, also includes stories from both internationally known and little known athletes like gymnast Shun Fujimoto, who led his team to victory with a broken knee.
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