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‘Shy kid’ Karen Chen has a plan for fighting off nerves

2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships - Day 1

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 03: Karen Chen competes in the Ladies Short Program during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the SAP Center on January 3, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Karen Chen found herself in a room full of athletes, and she froze.

The 18-year-old American figure skater describes herself as a “shy kid,” and her nerves were getting the best of her again. She was there hoping to trade collectable pins, a longstanding Olympic tradition that helps break the ice between people from different sports or countries.

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She just couldn’t do it.

“I was nervous,” she said. “Like, ‘What if this person doesn’t want to trade pins with me? What if they already had my pin?’ All these random thoughts raced (through) my head.”

Worries like that have dictated much of Chen’s young career, something she readily acknowledges. She managed to control her nerves while becoming the 2017 national champion, and while finishing fourth at worlds last year — a feat that earned the U.S. three women’s spots in Pyeongchang. But she has also drowned at times in her anxiety, like when she finished 12th at Four Continents at Gangneung Ice Arena last February.

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