Karen Chen is the daughter of immigrant engineers who moved to California and who have worked hard to give their children – Karen and her brother, Jeffrey Chen – skating careers.
Karen Chen, who is being closely watched for her medaling potential in Pyeongchang, grew up in Fremont, California like her idol, Kristi Yamaguchi, who has praised the young skater’s talent.
“My family (brother included!) has always been my biggest support system without a doubt,” Karen wrote on Instagram.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Karen Chen’s Parents Are Immigrants From Taiwan & She Wears a Jade Rabbit Necklace From Her Mother
Karen Chen’s parents are her mother, Hsui-Hui Tseng, and her father, Chih-Hsiu Chen. Both of her parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan in 1995.
They settled in Fremont, California, which was coincidentally the home to Yamaguchi (who is of Japanese heritage). Yamaguchi has said she and Karen Chen text each other and that she is there to help support the young skater. Karen Chen calls herself a “quiet assassin” on the ice, reports NBC News. She is the U.S. women’s national champion.
You might notice that Karen Chen wears a jade rabbit necklace during competition. That’s a zodiac animal from her mother. “Her mother gave it to her for ‘protection’ after she suffered a foot injury at age 9; it’s been her talisman of choice ever since,” reported NBC News.
2. Chen’s Parents Took Her Ice Skating For Fun
Even though they settled in the Fremont area that was home to Yamaguchi, Karen’s mother and father weren’t stage parents plotting their daughter’s ice skating future. According to The Mercury News, they took her ice skating “for fun.”
That first turn on the ice came at Sharks Ice, “the former Iceoplex in Fremont’s Warm Springs district,” according to EastBayTimes.
Skating helped Karen get over being shy. According to her website, Karen Chen was born in Fremont, California on August 16, 1999. “She first stepped on ice at age of four and started competing when she was six. She was a very shy girl and it’s always been a challenge for her to attend skating group lessons,” the website says.
“She would just stand by the gate of rink and wouldn’t go to her group alone. Things changed at her first skating competition. She did everything during competition by herself. After that, she told her parents that she loved ice skating and wants to do more competitions. So, her skating journey began.”
3. Chen’s Parents Are Engineers Who Home Schooled Her
Both Hsui-Hui Tseng and Chih-Hsiu Chen work as engineers, the mother from home, reports Mercury News. Her mother told the newspaper that both parents need to work to afford their daughter’s skating expenses. The Chen children attend the online school California Connections Academy @ Ripon.
Chen trains in Riverside, California, and her father lives in Hayward for work, further demonstrating the sacrifices that skating families often have to make. She travels to her family’s home every weekend.
On Instagram, Karen lamented the distance apart on Father’s Day, writing, “Happy Father’s Day! Although I am not spending Father’s Day with my dad, in my heart he will always be with me! Love you and miss you, Daddy! ?❤️? #FathersDay #WishHeIsHere #HeIsinNorCal #ThrowbackPic #MissTheTimesWhenMyBrotherWasShorter.”
Karen is artistic. “Karen is a straight A student and math and science are her favorite subjects. Actually, she was just awarded with Dean’s Honor List last semester. She likes art a lot and has been taking art lessons since she was 8. Therefore, she has lots of artwork at home and her favorite ones are all hung on walls of living and family room,” her website says.
4. Karen’s Brother, Jeffrey, Is Also a Skater
Karen’s brother, Jeffrey Chen, is a competitive ice dancer. He and his partner won the “silver medal in novice ice dancing at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 2018,” according to The Mercury News. He moved to Michigan to train, causing more sacrifice for the family.
Karen and Jeffrey do a lot of things together. “She also like to play baseball, badminton and tennis with her brother, Jeffrey, when she has time. Both Karen and Jeffrey like to ride bikes and chase after each other when weather is nice. She is happy that she is able to skate and train with her brother after Jeffrey decided he wants to be a figure skater as well,” her website says.
5. Karen Is Not Related to Nathan Chen
There is another Chen on the ice in Pyeongyang: Nathan Chen, the men’s figure skater who was widely considered to have the best shot at the individual gold in South Korea but who struggled during his first performance in the team competition’s short program.
Due to their last names, ages, and prowess on the ice, a lot of people wondering if they are related. The answer is no, though. Karen Chen and Nathan Chen are of no relation to one another.