VANCOUVER -- Kurt Browning thinks the world of the kid. He thinks Patrick Chan will become the man to take Canada back to the top of the world again.
"He's the best bet right now. If you're looking for somebody to do it, he's the guy you look to," said Browning.
Chan, who turned 17 on New Year's Eve, sat here yesterday in a candid one-on-one interview and made one whale of a statement.
"My goal is to make skating rise again in Canada. I'm hoping I'm the beginning of a new era.
"I'm hoping I'm the one who will bring skating back to where it was when I was a kid watching on TV.
"I know people are waiting on their couches for the next Kurt Browning," he said.
"That's just unbelievable that a 17-year-old kid says that," said Browning.
"That's why I like him so much. There's something about him. You're drawn to this guy. Some people just have that ability to make you want to care about them. He has the attitude that if he does the work, he's going to get better."
Browning, the four-time world champion who is still at the top of the pro show skating world, trains with Chan ("when I train") at the Granite in Toronto.
Chan, he says, actually draws him to the rink. "We have double Axel competitions. That's the best I can do anymore.
"I thought he was special two years ago. I'm not just watching him skating, it's training with him.
"He has such an irresistible combination of innocence and joy. He has a constant smile. You never see him get too angry or too frustrated. I love his attitude.
"He's very, very low key. It's not so different than I used to approach it, that I have to skate well to win. His personality is untroubled. I'd be surprised if he didn't win the Canadian crown someday soon. It could be even this year."
Today Chan will skate the short program at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships at the Olympic venue here. And he knows, with Canada only having two spots for the world championships, how important it is.
"Looking at 2010, this is a must. It's the most important competition of my life. This time, it's very important that I make it to the Worlds. I don't want to go just once, next year, before going to the Olympics."
Chan won silver at the world junior in Oberstdorf, Germany last season, the highest finish for a Canadian man since 1984. This year he won the Grand Prix event in Paris and was third at Skate America to make the Grand Prix final.
"Things changed very quickly for me this season. It actually worries me that they've gone too well. But (yesterday's) practice went great. But I know I'm going to be nervous because this means so much. I go to bed every night dreaming about the Olympics in Vancouver."
Browning was 21 when he went to the Olympics in Calgary in 1988 and had a stunning eighth place finish, went to Worlds in Budapest the next year and became the first to land the quad in competition and then won his first Worlds the following year in Paris.
"It's great to have him around," said Chan.
"Anytime he's at the rink, it's awesome. He gives me tips. And he tells me a lot of stories. He jokes around a lot. If I'm in a bad mood, he cures that just being there and being Kurt. And to say what he said about me is major motivation."
It's tough to imagine a much better figure skating story than Browning's, the son of an outfitter and mountain guide from Caroline, but Chan is interesting enough.
His parents, Karen and Lewis, were both born in China and met each other at a table tennis tournament in Montreal. He started skating at the age five in Ottawa.
"I wanted to play hockey but my mom wanted me to try figure skating first," he said.
When they moved to Toronto, Chan stayed with the sport.
Spend a half hour with this kid and it doesn't seem like there's much Chinese in him.
"I use chopsticks. I love Chinese food," he laughs. "When I was a little kid my mom spoke to me in Mandarin and my dad spoke to me in French. The last language I learned was English. I'm proud to be Chinese."
Interesting young man and definitely the man to follow in figure skating in Canada for the future. The question is if the future will be now.