Karen Chen skates in dresses designed and sewn by her mother

BEIJING – As quickly as Karen Chen skates on the ice, the dreaded feeling returns.

His coach may pound the sphere wall to get him excited. His household and associates may scream encouragement from watching. Followers may encourage his identify.

But in that highlight, he stands there ready for the music to start, as he does within the free skating of the Beijing Video games on Thursday, he nonetheless feels very weak.

“It’s simply me, my physique and thoughts, and it simply hits me that ugh, I’m doing this alone,” stated Chen, a two-time Olympic champion and 2017 U.S. champion. “It may be so scary.”

He is aware of the drugs is close to, so shut that he carries it with him. A fast contact of her jade rabbit necklace and a look at her outfit remind her that it’s okay as a result of her mom is together with her too.

Chen’s mom, Hsiu-Hui Tseng, gave him that necklace when Chen was 9 years outdated after his first critical harm in sports activities, a damaged bone in his leg, and a rabbit is Chen’s Chinese language horoscope. It’s meant to guard him, and Chen all the time makes use of it.

And his go well with? It’s a special story sewn collectively over time a few mom’s love and help for a daughter who had an Olympic dream and has now realized it twice.

For many of Chen’s profession, her mom has made her glittering outfits fastidiously designed with Swarovski crystals that finest seize gentle. There might be 1000’s of them in every outfit, and every is glued individually. The larger ones are additionally sewn so that they don’t fall off.

At this degree of the game, the place attire can price a number of thousand {dollars} – or extra as a result of in some circumstances Vera Wang designed them – a home made costume that endures the highest of the game is a rarity.

There’s a lavender with a deep V, lined with shiny butterflies and flowers, for the “Butterfly Lovers Concerto” present. One other, purple with a contact of white and fuchsia flowers flowing fantastically throughout the sand. Black with an atmospheric deep V-design with dazzling blues on the entrance and an identical deep bucket on the again.

And one that’s considered one of Chen’s favorites: a lavender costume with an ombré sample that Tseng took to perfection many instances as a result of she purchased the material from Jo-Ann’s store and dyed it herself. You’ll be able to study something from YouTube, he stated.

Chen, 22, fastidiously wore attire made by her mom in each the quick program and the free skating of the group occasion final week when the US gained a silver medal. She will’t think about sporting a costume made by anybody else.

“It’s arduous to clarify, however I solely really feel one of the best once I use them,” Chen stated a number of days after arriving in Beijing.

At first, Chen didn’t skate on custom-made attire. When he was about 7-8 years outdated and wanted a go well with, his mom purchased such an ice rink from knowledgeable retailer, though knocked it out for the worth. Chen ended up complaining about it and stated, “Oh my God, that is like too itchy, and I do not need to put on this!”

Her mom provided a well-recognized father or mother response, “I paid for this. You are going to use it. “

And Chen used it, however just for a second. His complaints depressed his mom.

“Her physique could be very delicate, and that’s why her costume has to take a seat a sure means,” Tseng stated. “So I stated, ‘I am going to see what I can do,’ and I solved the issue myself.”

Tseng’s outdated Barbie dolls helped. As a lady in Taiwan, Tseng wasn’t proud of Matel’s vogue decisions, so she tore her doll’s garments to items to look at the disassembled cloth, then used them as a mannequin in her personal patterns and borrowed her mom’s stitching machine to create new, improved ones. clothes.

Years later, she additionally tore her daughter’s first competitors go well with and put it again collectively in a means that made Chen really feel comfy – and, maybe extra importantly, assured.

This stitching was just the start of Tseng’s dedication to her daughter’s profession – and Chen stated her mom’s efforts and sacrifices have helped her attain the highest of her sport.

“I used to be so younger and wanted a lot assist that I couldn’t have carried out this with out him,” Chen stated. “After I joined the group in 2018, it was a dream come true, and I additionally knew my mom was behind all of it.”

When Chen was in center college, his household moved partly in order that he may practice underneath the steering of internationally famend coach Tammy Gambill, based mostly in Riverside, California, 400 miles south of Chenien Fremont’s residence. Chen’s father, Chih-Hsiu Chen, couldn’t transfer due to his job, however Tseng was in a position to work remotely as a database engineer, so he rented an condo in Riverside the place the household lived for per week.

Ultimately, Chen’s youthful brother Jeffrey additionally started coaching at Riverside as an ice dancer. On the weekends, they drove again to Fremont so the entire household could possibly be collectively, and Chen remembers her mom being so drained throughout the six- to eight-hour drive on the Honda minibus that Chinese language podcasts or recreation reveals exploded within the automobile. to maintain him awake.

Through the week, Tseng awakened at 6 a.m. for East Coast enterprise conferences and introduced his laptop computer to the trough the place he labored within the auditorium.

“My husband and I have been by no means in a position to play a sport like determine skating as a result of we didn’t have the assets,” Tseng stated. “We do something to provide our youngsters the chance to do what they love.”

Tseng continued to make Chen’s attire till 2016, when Chen’s first probability on the Olympics approached they usually turned to knowledgeable. Attire are such an vital a part of a skater’s presentation that athletes present them to coaches and even judges earlier than competitions to get suggestions on what the costume will make the physique appear like when doing jumps and laps.

“The costume, the hair, the make-up, the choice of music and the story behind it, it is all caught within the packaging and that is an enormous deal, is not it?” Drew Meekins, Chen’s choreographer, stated. “The costume ought to present the physique line in the way in which that’s most interesting to indicate issues like posture and limb stretch. All of these items are valued on the element factors of this system.”

He added: “Karen’s mom is nice at emphasizing her in simply that good means.”

However the price of these professionally made fits is excessive, and Tseng stated he generally paid greater than $ 3,500 for the additional modifications. Generally Chen had to purchase an entire new costume as a result of the judges didn’t like what she confirmed them. In 2018, the price turned uncontrollable, and Chen returned to her mom to select up the costumes. Tseng additionally makes costumes for her son Jeffrey and his ice dance companion Katarina Wolfkostin. They have been named deputies for these Olympics.

“I don’t care what individuals say as a result of firstly it saves cash and secondly he’s tremendous proficient,” Chen stated. “That is why my attire are all the time attractive.”

Earlier than Tseng begins his stitching machine, he listens to the music Chen performs, after which spends hours looking the online and looking magazines to search for marriage ceremony attire, gymnastics outfits, different skaters ’fits, and vogue on the whole to get concepts for a brand new creation.

He then meets Chen to debate the probabilities and later variations, akin to which stone shade seems to be finest and which course the crystal design ought to go.

Tseng stated he spends about $ 1,000 to $ 1,500 on every costume and creates them in about 10 years. Chen receives them from FedEx on the U.S. Olympic Coaching Heart in Colorado, the place he’s lived and practiced for the previous few years – and each time he opens the field, his coronary heart jumps.

Her newest costume arrived the day earlier than she left for Beijing.

For 20 hours a day, 4 days in a row, Tseng had reduce the material, sewed and glued, and sewed extra for his daughter, who plans to quickly retire from a world competitors and return to pre-school drugs at Cornell College.

“I barely slept in any respect, however I needed to do one thing actually particular,” Tseng stated. “I do know I will not have that chance sooner or later as a result of he has a special life, and I’ll miss this.”

Chen, who was ranked thirteenth within the girls’s singles after a brief program on Tuesday, stated she plans to put on the brand new costume on Thursday in freestyle skating. He didn’t describe it as a result of he needed it to be a shock.

“It represents our particular bond,” he stated.

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