HELSINKI, Finland – As much as Karen Chen tried not to think of anything but the World Championships free skate ahead of her Friday night, she could not avoid getting distracted.
While waiting to take the ice for the warmup in the final group of skaters at Hartwall Arena, Chen looked up at the video board and saw the overall standings of the 18 previous competitors. They showed her teammate, Ashley Wagner, significantly lower than expected.
At that moment, Chen realized there was extra pressure on her if the United States was to keep three women's spots for the 2018 Olympics.
"I admit it," Chen said with a smile, almost abashed to confess having let her mind settle on the three-spot issue for a few seconds.
"I did know I needed to skate really well," Chen continued. "I knew if I kept thinking about it, obsessing over the thoughts, I would not skate very well.
"I just had to play some mind games, block out the other thoughts and focus on myself."