Figure skating: Chen overcomes sickness, ready to defend title

FILE PHOTO: Figure Skating - ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - 2018 Internationaux de France - Exhibition Gala - The Polesud, Grenoble, France - November 25, 2018 Nathan Chen of the U.S. performs during the Exhibition Gala REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot

(Reuters) - Sickness forced Nathan Chen to train in New Haven but the 19-year-old says he is rested and ready to defend his figure skating title at next week's world championships in Saitama. Chen, who last year became the youngest world champion since Russian Yevgeni Plushenko in 2001, had his preparation for a follow up derailed a bit by a cold that kept him near his college at Yale University. But that setback will not keep him from showing up in Japan as a favorite when this year's world championships begin on Monday. "I got a little bit sick so I decided to recover (in New Haven) and make sure I didn’t get any of the other athletes sick," Chen told reporters during a teleconference on Friday. "The entire college got sick, so it was inevitable. I’ve been training well for worlds. I’m looking forward to competition." Chen showed strong form at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships where he took a third consecutive gold in January. He said that his performances have been continually building, which is a strong sign for the rest of the season. "That’s always my goal every season. I want to be able to improve in some degree from competition to competition," Chen said. "It’s more evident in the short program from where I started out (to now), each one has progressively gotten better. I hope that continues in the worlds and further on in the season." Chen has managed to balance his skating with his studies thus far, but said a return to Yale next fall is not guaranteed. "My skating at this point is such a team effort. I really have to take into account everyone else’s thoughts and opinions," Chen said. "I have to make sure everyone else is on board with what I’m deciding. I haven’t made any decisions yet. Right now my focus is on the worlds and nothing else." (Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)