Chan looking for inspiration

By RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — The perspiration is in place.

Patrick Chan is spending his final hours before Tuesday night’s Olympic men’s figure skating short program making major withdrawals from his inspiration bank.

“I might need a motivational speech before I go on the ice,” the 19-year-old Toronto native said with a grin, “so maybe I’ll talk to (U.S. Olympic swimmer) Dara Torres. She’s here. Or make a call to Donovan Bailey.”

He knows the guy he can’t wait to see: moguls king and Canada’s first Olympic home gold medalist Alex Bilodeau, with whom became friends during a B210 corporate retreat last summer in Banff.

“I want to give him a big hug,” Chan said. “That’s what I watched (Sunday night on TV) and he was so inspiring. I was so happy for him. He said all the right things. Of course, you try to take something from a performance like that.

“He just went for it. He attacked every bump and jump. That’s such a great example for what I want to do. Just go for it and leave it all out there.

“Alex got that first gold medal. He took the pressure off the (Canadian) team. I don’t know if I’ll end up with gold but if I put down two performances like that, I can’t ask for anything more.”

This is one of the deepest men’s fields in Olympic skating history. There are world champions and medal winners everywhere.

There are eight or nine who could reach the podium. Before this, it’s been impossible to get them all on the same ice.

“We’ve had good skaters at the Grand Prix events and everyone’s going to try to predict what’s going to happen anyway,” reigning world champ Evan Lysachek of the United States said, “but it’s still going to come down to who’s hot on the day.”

The top two skaters from Turin — Russian Evgeni Plushenko and Switzerland’s Stephane Lambiel — came out of retirement to scale this mountain once more.

“We’re all competitors,” said Chan, an Olympics rookie. “I respect those guys because coming back off the couch isn’t an easy thing. We all want to win. That’s why we’re here and I want to show what I can do at my home, on my turf.

“I feel healthy. I’ve felt great since I’ve arrived. I’m in the zone. I’m so focused on what I have to do. I blink my eyes and my skates are on.”

Few dispute Chan has won the week of pre-Games posturing.

He went right after Plushenko. He said the Russian observing his practice was proof of concern.

No one knows what’s going to count more to the judges — Chan’s snazzy transitions sans grand slam leap or those spectacular quad jumps several contenders like Plushenko and Frenchman Brian Joubert feel have been devalued under the code of points system.

The uncertainty has fueled fear and paranoia.

“Patrick’s handled himself so well the whole way,” Canadian team leader Mike Slipchuk said. “With this field, a mistake in the short program will be costly. Unless something really happens, I don’t expect much difference in a lot of the top scores. Patrick’s been in attack mode since he got here.

“He’s ready.”

Everyone, of course, is wary of Plushenko.

If he pulls out his quad toeloop-triple toeloop-triple loop combo here, he might as well skate straight off the ice and go to the medal ceremony for a fifth straight Russian gold in the men’s discipline.

But he has questions to answer.

Chan is coming. Lambiel and Joubert look strong. The Japanese are capable of putting up big points. The three Americans — Lysachek, Johnny Weir and under-the-radar Jeremy Abbott — can make a splash.

In this field, Weir, a World War II history buff, thought it appropriate he watched an old documentary about Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin in the village.

So which of those greats does Weir feel he’s the most like?

“Lady Gaga,” he said.

POLL