Motive of Chan's divorce from coach vary

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI AGENCY

Spins are a major part of a figure skater's arsenal.

Toronto's Patrick Chan is certainly adept at spins, and not just the ones he performs on the ice.

This past week -- just more than a month before the Vancouver Olympics begin -- Chan split with his coach Don Laws. Big news, or so you might think.

But the spin Chan put on the split was that it was no big deal at all.

In a press release, Chan thanked Laws for "everything he had done over the past few years" and wished him well with his new job in Florida. Skate Canada also wished Laws well and announced that it "fully supports" Chan's current coaching team of choreographer Lori Nichol and technical specialist Christy Krall.

It's like they were announcing a new shoelace sponsor.

MORE TO IT

But, clearly, there's more to the split than meets the eye.

When a high-profile athlete breaks up with his coach just weeks before the biggest competition of his life, there's clearly a suggestion of desperation or panic.

Chan has experienced a dreadful 2009-10 season thus far, starting with a calf injury earlier in October, which led to his missing two weeks of training and withdrawing from his first Grand Prix of the season, the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow.

The defending world championship silver-medallist managed to get healthy enough to compete at Skate Canada in November, but finished a disappointing sixth, after falling three times in his free program.

Something had to be done. And something was. With the Olympic Games getting closer and the pressure building, Chan decided to travel to Colorado Springs, Colo. in December to work with Krall, who was among the first to use Dartfish digital technology to analyze and break down the physics of skating jumps.

The intriguing part was, the Toronto skater decided he was going to return to Colorado, even though Laws wasn't about join him in the Rocky Mountains. When Laws, who coached Scott Hamilton to a gold at the 1984 Olympics, got wind that Chan was planning to extend his training in Colorado, he decided to part ways with his skater, informing Skate Canada that he would not be attending the Canadian championships this week in London, nor would he be going to the Olympics.

It was Laws who initiated the split, but it was Chan who orchestrated the deal, by remaining in Colorado.

So, is everybody happy? Chan and Skate Canada would like everyone to believe so. But Laws clearly isn't, scoffing at Chan's original reasoning for staying in Colorado -- altitude training.

SEEMS SUSPECT

"That was interesting," Laws told icenetwork.com, "because most of Vancouver is at sea level."

Skaters and coaches split up all the time, but not weeks before an Olympics.

Michael Slipchuk, Skate Canada's technical director, agrees that, on the surface, the split seems suspect and can understand why people would question such a move. But after visiting Chan in Colorado last week and monitoring his training, Slipchuk said that it was not done out of desperation or panic. Chan, he said, is just more comfortable training in Colorado, with other elite skaters. Furthermore, Slipchuk added, Chan is not stumbling and bumbling toward the Canadian championships or the Olympics.

"An athlete has to be comfortable where they are and where they train, and this is where Patrick feels better," Slipchuk said yesterday. "And if this is where Patrick is happy and this is the combination he likes (Nichol and Krall), then he's going to achieve."

Slipchuk said that, from what he saw, Chan's training is going well, adding that he saw the 19-year-old land some "very nice quad toes."

Slipchuk's concern is that the media and public will jump to conclusions at the Canadians in terms of where Chan will be for the Olympics, which he said isn't fair. Given the injury and lost training, Slipchuk said Chan will peak for Vancouver, not London.

"I feel he's up for the challenge," Slipchuk said. "I think he's excited."

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA

POLL