Skating star Chan rising

TERRY JONES

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- So much has happened so soon. And so much more could happen soon enough.

It's only 11 months until Patrick Chan will skate in the Olympic Winter Games and if he does what many think he might do here at the Staples Centre this week at the World figure skating championships, he might go to Vancouver 2010 favoured to win Canada's first Olympic gold medal in singles skating since Barbara Ann Scott in 1948.

The Ottawa-born, Toronto-raised, still-in-high-school son of born-in-China-but-met-at-a-Montreal-table- tennis-tournament parents Karen and Lewis, has made himself a figure skating shooting star for Canada to follow as the Olympic countdown continues.

Flashback. Fourteen months ago.

Chan solved a sports columnist's scheduling conflict with his practice session at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver by having himself dropped off at the scribe's hotel to be interviewed for an hour, where he also delivered the following remarkable 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."

The kid had just turned 17 on New Year's Eve.

Flashback. Same Vancouver hotel lobby two hours later.

Four-time world champion Browning listens to what the kid, who won a silver medal at the world junior championships a year earlier, had just told the scribe and didn't laugh.

He not only said Chan could indeed become the next Kurt Browning, he was predicting it.

"That's just unbelievable that a 17-year-old kid says that. 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 if he does the work he's going to get better. When I train at the Granite in Toronto with him we have double Axel competitions. That's all I can do anymore.

"I thought he was special two years ago. It's 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. His personality is untroubled. I'd be surprised if he didn't win the Canadian crown someday soon. It could even be this year."

Surprise, surprise

Flashback. Two days later.

Chan became the youngest to ever win the Canadian figure skating championship. And he had no idea of that.

Didn't have a clue. Nobody had told him.

"Holy @#$%&!" he said.

Sorry. What was that again?

"Holy sh-moly!" he laughed.

"Oh my God," he added.

"This whole season has been like a dream. I've learned to set my goals high. There's no reason I shouldn't, but I didn't know that. The way I've been setting records ... At the junior worlds I became the first Canadian in 23 years to get a medal. But this ... this is great. I go to bed every night thinking about the Olympics in Vancouver "

Fast forward. Today.

"It does seem like a long time ago. I watch the video of that and it seems like so much has changed. But I'm also so much the same. I'm the same person, the same kid going to high school I was then.

"When I look back, it doesn't surprise me that I said all those things to you then, even though I wasn't even Canadian champion yet when I said them. It's how I've felt for a long time. I was hoping to some day be able to skate like Kurt did and bring it back to the way it was when he was skating. I've been trying my best to do that since, to turn this around and bring people back and put it in front of Canadians, in their (consciousness) again and really make a change. And to have Kurt Browning means a lot, especially knowing he wants the best for me. He helps motivate me."

Looking back, Chan remembers his mindset going in to those Canadians only 14 months ago.

"Looking toward 2010, I knew that was a must, that it was the most important competition of my life. I knew it was very important that I make it to Worlds. I didn't want to go just once, to this one in Los Angeles, before going to the Olympics."

Flashback. Goteborg, Sweden. Twelve months ago. Chan finishing ninth is a mere sidebar to teammate Jeffrey Buttle's stunning upset gold medal at Worlds.

Climbing the ladder

"It was pretty nerve-wracking. My goal is to belong with these guys. My goal was to end up in single digits. I didn't want to be 10th or lower. I wanted to make my place."

Chan was informed that Browning had been 15th at his first Worlds and Elvis Stojko ninth.

"I was wondering how they did."

Fast forward. Today.

Chan says if he had those Worlds to do over again, he would.

"Maybe last year I blew the world championships out of proportion. This year I'm planning to treat it just like any other event. Looking back, the Worlds didn't turn out the way I wanted and expected. I wanted to be in the last group," he said of the final six skaters. "I think I was a bit too anxious to get what I wanted instead of just letting it happen. I tried to force it to happen."

Flashback. Saskatoon. Two months ago.

After a season in which he went to the Grand Prix final as the top-ranked skater but failed on his triple Axel in both the short and long programs, Chan came home as the marquee man at the Canadian figure skating championships.

"I can't believe it. Last year he was just Patrick Chan. Now I'm reading the Globe & Mail and he's one of the 30 most influential people in Canadian sport," said ice dancer Scott Moir.

"It happened pretty quick," Chan said.

"I grew up wanting to be famous. Everybody dreams of having this much attention. But it's not like I'm walking around saying 'Oh my God I'm getting famous.' One of the things Kurt has taught me is not to get too big an ego and to keep close friends close to you."

The biggest compliment paid to Chan was by Buttle. It's unheard of, two years before the Olympics, for the world champion to retire because there's a kid coming along who he's not going to be able to compete against.

"It was was quite a compliment," Chan said. "It was definitely a surprise. I guess he figured it was as good as it was going to get."

It was good for Chan in terms of timing.

"It made me face the international scene instead of the national scene. Instead of asking: 'What is Jeff doing?' I'm asking: 'What is Brian Joubert doing?' "

A year before, going into Canadians, the big question was if Chan had time to develop enough to be a contender for Vancouver 2010.

"Right now I think I'm on time," he said and went out and nailed everything. Fast forward. Today.

"Saskatoon was real important for me because of what had happened at the Grand Prix final. I'd won two Grand Prix events but fell off those Axels at the final and didn't make the podium.

"To be honest I think it was my attitude after leaving the Grand Prix final and my attitude when I got to the competition. In my long program I fell on both my triple Axels, but I kept going doing the whole program and I didn't leave anything out. I did everything that was planned. The only thing, I was missing was the Axel. When I got to nationals I said to myself 'Hey, you know what? All I have to do are the triple Axels. Everything else is there for you.

"Everything else is on the table already so you don't really have to worry about anything else.' "

With the best

Flashback. Vancouver. One month ago.

The Four Continents test event. Chan put an exclamation mark on what he did in Vancouver to win gold coming within a mere nine points of Evgeny Plushenko's world best points total from the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games, a point total which would put him on the podium, if not the top of the podium, at this year's Worlds in Los Angeles. This time he not only knows he belongs with the top skaters, he's been able to beat them all.

Fast forward. Today.

"It means I can be world champion and Olympic champion," he said.

There was only a slight pause, however, before he continued.

"But it doesn't matter because all of us are capable of being the world champion or Olympic champion. It's who can perform on that day. It's really hard to predict anything and think I'm on top of the world because we're really all on top of the world. We're all up there."

---

JOANNIE ROCHETTE

NOTES: A five-time Canadian champion from Ile Dupas, Que., Rochette was the silver medal winner at the recent Four Continents Vancouver 2010 test event. She'd been second at the event in 2008 and third in 2007. Fifth at the Torino 2006 Olympics, she finished 17th, eighth, 11th, seventh, 10th and sixth in her first six World Figure Skating Championships.

QUOTES: "I just so bad want to make it to the podium at these Worlds. I want to make it happen. This is the seventh time I'm going to Worlds but the first year I'm going believing I belong there with the top skaters. It feels different.

"I've improved a lot. I'm proving I'm a competitor. The most important thing is how much confidence I'm taking to Worlds this year. I'm 23 and I'm still improving and I know I can get better. I've proven to myself that I can step it up and I've shown the judges I can do it. I'm so motivated to go and so excited to show that I can do it now at Worlds and then at the Olympics."

TESSA VIRTUE & SCOTT MOIR

NOTES: Silver medal winners in dance at last year's Worlds in Goteborg, Sweden, after placing sixth in their debut the previous year, Virtue and Moir followed it up with a silver at Four Continents Olympic test event in Vancouver. Former world junior champions, the London/Ilderton, Ont., duo went from fourth to third to second to winning the last two Canadian championships.

QUOTES: "The Worlds at any time are huge. It's extra special when the Worlds are the last ones before the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. This can really set the stage for next season. We feel we're able to stand on top of the podium when we're at our best, whether it be this coming week in Los Angeles or next year in Vancouver. We don't think we're competing with ourselves from last year." (Moir).

"Being out with injury this year and coming back it's tough to figure where we fit. And the Olympics next year adds a little more pressure, but it's good to learn how to deal with it." (Virtue.)

JESSICA DUBE & BRYCE DAVISON

NOTES: Until they won bronze at last year's Worlds in Goteborg, Sweden, they were best known for their horrific accident two years ago when Davison's skate sliced Dube's face for 83 stitches. The Drummondville, Que./Cambridge, Ont., pair had twice finished seventh at Worlds and 10th at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games. They are two-time Canadian champions.

QUOTES: "Winning the bronze medal last year at Worlds inspired us for sure. We want to do that podium again. It also puts pressure on to be as good or better. We know we can do it. We also know there's a lot of competition in pairs. We know we can have two clean skates and finish fourth. That's how close it is. We love competition like that. We have really strong competition in our own nation." (Davison)

"We had two great skates at Four Continents and it gave us a lot of confidence to take to the world championships. We tried to live up to the expectations at Four Continents and were able to do that, so it should be pretty good." (Dube).

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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