Redemptive performance keeps demons at bay for Nathan Chen

  A historic free skate left Nathan Chen gasping for air.  (Getty Images)

A historic free skate left Nathan Chen gasping for air.  (Getty Images)

GANGNEUNG, South Korea - It was the most significant performance to this point in Nathan Chen's competitive skating career.

And Chen's redemptive Olympic free skate Saturday may turn out to be the most significant in his entire career.

"I'm glad I was able to show myself, and everyone else, I can bounce back from a bad performance," Chen said.

To have finished his debut Olympics with nothing to temper having done so poorly in the team event and individual short programs would have been a burden Chen couldn't have shaken until 2022 -- if ever.

"These kind of things haunt you," 1992 Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie said.

Chen, 18, not only exorcised the demons-in-waiting -- he also wound up making Olympic history, winning the free skate by a whopping 8.91-point margin over repeat gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. His performance moved him from 17th after the short to fifth overall but, more important, allowed him to step into a future that again seems as bright as the one everyone has envisioned for him.

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