January 17, 2011
Patrick Chan an artist on the ice
By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency
When you look back at it, it's incredible that Patrick Chan was able to pick himself up and place fifth at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Right from the beginning of last season, the skating gods seemed to conspire against the Toronto skater -- a late summer bout with the H1N1flu, a calf muscle tear, which knocked him out competition early in the season and, finally, just weeks before the Vancouver Games, a split with his coach Don Laws.
Add that to the pressure of being 19 years old and competing at a home Olympics and, well, Chan was not exactly in an optimum state of mind heading into the Vancouver Games.
But he did rise to the occasion, recovering from a poor short program in Vancouver to fin-ish fifth overall with an inspired long, demonstrating again that the sky's the limit for the 20-year-old skater and, that, in all likelihood, he will be 'The Man' three years from now at the Sochi Games.
And now he's rising to the occasion again.
The knock against Chan has been that he didn't do a quad. Even his compatriot, former world champion Elvis Stojko, dug the knife in at the Vancouver Games, proclaiming that, without the big jumps, men's figure skating was not a real sport.
But he has a quad now -- landing it for the first time in competition at Skate Canada in October. Make that two quads. Chan announced on Friday that he is adding a second to his Phantom of the Opera long program.
The Colorado Springs-based skater said in a conference call that he believes that in order to challenge for the gold medal at the 2011 world championships in Japan in March, and defeat the best singles skaters in the world, particularly defending Olympic bronze medallist Daisuke Takahashi of Japan, he will need at least one quad.
And now that the quad feels comfortable in training, he figures why not add a second and really push the envelope?
"I'm super-exited about doing it," Chan said. "I'm going to need it this year (to win the worlds) for sure. No doubt about it. I'm going to put at least one quad in the program (for the worlds) like I did in the Grand Prix final."
Chan, 20, said he began contemplating adding a second quad to his long program early in the season.
"I talked to (choreographer) Lori (Nichol) and said: 'Can you give us a Plan B if, in the future, we want to do another quad in the program?' "
And now that it's almost the end of the season, I kind of feel very comfortable with the quad and it's more consistent that the triple Axel," added Chan, who is getting over a nasty cold.
"I don't see why I can't do two quads. I like to put the challenge out for myself."
"That is the great thing about Chan," Skate Canada technical director Michael Slipchuk told the Sun earlier. "He is a master at both technical skating and artistry, and that, many believe, will take him to the very top at the 2014 Sochi Games.
"He is so good in so many areas of skating," Slipchuk added. "Some skaters are pure technical marvels. Some are pure artists. He has a combination of both. It is just sometimes it makes it harder to get all of that under control."
Fortunately, Chan seems to be on the verge of total control.
What he lacked in past seasons, and what everyone seemed to be waiting for, was the quad. The Ottawa-born skater is considered one of the best skaters in the world in terms of artistry and presentation, but the knock against him was the jump thing. But he nailed one in winning Skate Canada and, later, the ISU Grand Prix Final in Beijing, where he won the gold medal with a season-best 259.75 points.
Proving that you can't keep a good Chan down.
"He probably has one of the best quads in the world now and it's become a very secure jump for him," said Slipchuk this week from Colorado Springs, where he was monitoring Chan's programs. "Adding that one more technical piece is going to make it very hard for people to beat him."
He is the complete package now, but the key will be to find a way to remain consistent in competition, and not let the nerves play with his performance, as has been the case sometimes in the past. He also has to continue to push the envelope in every part of his skating if he wants to be a contender for gold at the 2014 Olympics. He also has to firm up his triple axel, a jump he still has problems with.
"You're always going to have to stay ahead of the curve. Getting the quad is a big step, but you still have spins, you still have step sequences and your jumps are always a work in process," Slipchuk said.
Next Sunday, Chan will go for his fourth senior Canadian men's title at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria and end the season in Tokyo in March at the world championships, where he is the defending silver medallist.
The current season started off on a down note for Chan when he fell off his mountain bike in September and thought he broke his back. Fortunately, that wasn't the case and his training in Colorado with Nichol and spin guru Christy Krall has been excellent.
"He's having a really good year with Christy and the system in place in Colorado and we're really seeing dividends," Slipchuk said.
"He's healthy, he's training fit and ready to go and there's nothing binding him. Every time I come here to see him, I see him taking another step forward. I think Canadians are going to be amazed at the direction he's going and the change in one year."
The men's competition at the Canadians will not be just about Chan.
Another 20-year-old skater, North Vancouver native Kevin Reynolds, created a stir at Skate Canada by becoming the first skater ever to land two quads in a short program -- opening his short with a quad salchow-triple toe loop combo and then later landing a quad toe-loop. He ended up fourth.
Pushing the envelope technically is nothing new for the Joanne McLeod-coached skater, who became only the second skater in the world, after Evgeni Plushenko, to land a quad-triple-triple combo.
Reynolds didn't compete at the Vancouver Olympics, but was assigned to the 2010 Four Continents competition and the world championships, where he fi-ished third and 11th respectively.
canoe.ca/skating Steve Buffery breaks down the Canadian championships Jumps obviously aren't a problem for the North Vancouver native, his artistry and presentation need development, and he is working with former Canadian ice dance great Shae-Lynn Bourne in that regard.
Though he is the same age as Chan, Reynolds has largely flown under the radar as a result of Chan's success, and Slipchuk, who skated in the shadow of four-time world king Kurt Browning, sees that as a good thing.
"All you have to do is worry about you," said Slipchuk, who finished second once and third three times before winning his first Canadian title in 1992.
"Your top-seeded people are always going to have the hopes of the country (and their back). In my case, the season always rested on how Kurt did."
Slipchuk said it's important for Reynolds and the other young skaters to step up and provide Chan with good competition at the domestic level, just like Browning did with Brian Orser, Elvis Stojko did with Browning and Jeff Buttle did with Stojko.
Slipchuk said if a skater breezes through a national championship, they're often "shell-shocked" by the competition when they take that next step at the worlds or Olympics.
FIGURE SKATING FIRSTS
RECORDED BY CANADIAN MEN
1962 -Donald Jackson performs the first triple Lutz in competition at the ISU world figure skating championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
1978 -Vern Taylor performs first triple Axel in competition at the ISU world figure skating Championships in Ottawa.
1979 -Brian Pockar is the first to perform a triple Salchow/double flip series in an international competition.
1988 -Kurt Browning performs first quad toe-loop in competition at the ISU world figure skating championships in Budapest, Hungary.
1991 -Elvis Stojko of Richmond Hill performs first quadruple combination jump (quad-toe/ double toe) in competition at the ISU world figure skating championships in Munich, Germany.
1997 -Elvis Stojko performs first quadruple toe/ triple toe loop combination in free program of the ISU champions series final in Hamilton, Ont.
2010 -Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C. becomes the first to land two quadruple jumps in a men's short program. He performed them at the 2010 Skate Canada International in Kingston, landing a quad Salchow, triple toe combination and a quad toe.