He won the U.S. figure skating championship last month, but don’t look for him on the ice in Vancouver**. For that matter, he won’t even be qualified for the 2014 Olympics in Russia. That’s because Nathan Chen is 10 years old – the 5th grader will be 11 in May. He was chosen as Person of the Week on ABC World News this week (watch the clip below).
I love it when young people excel. Few rise as meteorically as Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus, but in their own ways, every kid has the potential to be amazing at something. Will we call it forth in them? I’m sure Nathan would be able to point to a couple of key adults that did for him, including his parents and his coach.
I wonder, though. Will the pressure of how good he is now hang over him until 2018? Consider it – he will be almost twice as old as he is now. Child prodigies often burn out, hard. For every Mark-Paul Gosselaar (who went from adorably annoying Zach Morris to cop John Clark and most recently lawyer Jerry Kellerman) there are a half dozen headed down the path of River Phoenix or Brad Renfro.
I hope those close to Nathan will wisely help him walk the fine line between being an outstanding young competitor and being a kid. I’ve seen too many kids excel themselves into despising what was once their passion.
**That’s good for me. Not only have I been too busy to really watch any of the competitions, a lot of the ones that involve snow really freak me out. All I have to do is think about skiing and I flash to the second of the six times I’ve dislocated my shoulder. That time it was trying to learn how to ski at Snow Creek…