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Patrick Chan Going for Gold

by Alexandra Stevenson

(12 January 2012)  “It doesn’t get easier,” admits Canada’s top singles skater who hopes to win his sixth straight national senior title next week at the Mississauga Hershey Arena, and then, in March, claim his third straight world title in London, Ontario. “In fact, it gets harder. You aren’t going to be at the top unless you successfully land two quads, which means one must be done in combination. It won’t be long before the men have to do at least two types of quad. I had hoped to have that this season. But I’ve now put that off till next season. Then I’ll add either a quad Salchow or the quad flip.”

In mid-December Patrick Lewis Wai-Kuan Chan returned to his training site in Colorado Springs licking his wounds. He was trounced in the Grand Prix Final, which took place in Sochi, in the very south of Russia, in the Iceberg Skating Palace which will be the site of the figure skating and short track speed events in the 2014 Olympics Games.

Chan finished second in the Short Program and fourth in the Free Skate to earn the bronze, over ten points behind the winner, Daisuke Takahashi, who, in 2010, became the first ever man from his country to win an Olympic medal (bronze). He also became the first ever Japanese mens figure skating champion in 2010. But he has suffered since then due to injury.

Takahashi’s Japanese teammate in Sochi, Yuzuru Hanyu, an 18-year old who is now training in Toronto, was second.

Chan did not even have the consolation that Takahashi had skated brilliantly. The 26-year readily admitted he didn’t. “I’m not satisfied,” Takahashi said. “My performance was not that good.”

Chan was also realistic. “I did not get the results I had hoped for but I did get a feel for the Olympic site. I got to see where the Olympic village will be, and to experience competing in the venue. It was strange to be competing in a skating event next to the Black Sea with palm trees along the shore, and, then see, on the other side of the nine-venue “Ice Cluster” of arenas being built, not far away, snow topped mountains in the background.”

Chan does not plan on meeting these rivals again before Worlds in London, Ontario, where he expects to have a home country advantage. “Being in London will be relaxing,” he explains. “To be in a place where everything is familiar, definitely is an advantage. The hotel won’t produce any surprises. The Arena will be well run. Everybody will be looking out for the skaters. Canadians are the most knowledgeable people when it comes to figure skating. Everyone is very supportive.”

He confirmed that he will probably not take part in the Four Continents championships, which are in Osaka in February. “Japan is a long way away. That much travel and time change is very hard on the body. I want to be in peak shape for Worlds (March 11-17).

“It’s hard to keep focused,” Canada’s top male skater readily admits. “Four years between Olympics is a long time. I don’t want to rush things. I did that in Vancouver and all of a sudden it was the Closing Ceremony and I was wondering where the days had gone. I’m more experienced now, but I still don’t find competition easy. It seems to be getting harder. For one thing more competitors are trying quads. The technical standard is definitely getting higher.”

In 2010, despite the home country advantage, Chan finished a disappointed fifth in the Olympics. That was in part due to his losing a lot of practice time earlier in the season due to illness and injury. He subsequently changed coaches, moved to Colorado Springs and began working on the quad toe loop. Success with this jump played a major role in his ascent to the top.

After the last Worlds, held in Nice, France, despite successfully defending his title, he again changed coaches. Since then he has worked on a quad Salchow and flip, but on Wednesday said he will not be including these cutting-edge jumps this season.

This season, his Short Program was created by Jeff Buttle to Rachmaninoff’s “Elegie in E Flat Minor”. The Free was devised by David Wilson to Puccini’s “La Bohème".

He says he will be satisfied with nothing but gold in Sochi in 2014. He also has said he believes if he had won in 2010, he would not have continued to compete and that would have been a shame.

He revealed he had a unique Christmas. “We visited four Canadian cities. I skated with Jeff (Buttle), Kurt (Browning) and Elvis (Stoyko) in Celebration on Ice. It was great to appear with three other world champions. I had a great time. It was a blast. Competing and doing shows are so different. I discussed how I train with Elvis. He is so tough mentally. I’m a perfectionist. I do a big volume of jumps, just keep grinding them out because I love to jump. He thinks I’m jumping too much and causing stress.”

Then he went off to Hawaii where he celebrated his 22nd birthday on New Year’s Eve by surfing, inadvertently scraping his feet on coral! He also gambled a little. “We also hiked on the volcano. It’s like you are on different planet! It put everything into perspective. I stress over everything too much. I need to handle it better.

“Next season, I’m not going to be able to have that time off. The focus will be on the Olympics in February so I won’t have that luxury. I’ll be in strict training. Currently I’m still not at my peak. That has to come in March.”

He also talked about the high altitude of his adopted home base, Colorado Springs. “The high altitude does promote endurance, but when you come back home, it’s really hard. Mentally, when you come back and try to go through a routine, it’s like climbing a mountain or running a marathon. It makes you not want to leave knowing that’s what you are coming back to.”

Chan said he believes his first practice is on Wednesday night at the Mississauga Hershey Arena.

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