Chan again off to slow start

By RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — Patrick Chan’s Olympics have started the way his season did.

Slowly.

The Canadian men’s figure skating hope struggled in his short program Tuesday at the Pacific Coliseum and will need to produce a memorable free skate Thursday to land on the podium.

“That’s OK, an upset is the perfect setting for a comeback,” the 19-year-old from Toronto said. “Nine points isn’t that many to make up. It’s two steps. A four-minute, 40-second program is a long time and now, I’m in the underdog role. I’ll sit back and see if these guys have done all the training and are ready.”

He scored 81.12 points but stepped out on his opening triple Axel, tripped on footwork and was penalized for finishing too late.

“I was a little slow,” he said. “It’s the Olympics. You have to skate clean.”

ALL Russian rival Evgeni Plushenko, who leads with 90.85 points, ate on the most important day of his return from retirement was one banana.

Clearly, it was fuel enough to land a quad toeloop-triple toe combo, plus two other triple jumps, and rack up 90.85 points in the short program.

“No, it’s not normal for me (not to eat),” the 27-year-old Russian said. “The problem is in my muscles. That’s not the end of the fight. The fight is the free skate (Thursday). I’m going to have to eat something after this (and) before then.

“This is the Olympics. Of course, there’s pressure. There’s a lot of good skaters here who can win.”

American world champ Evan Lysachek (90.30) and Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi (90.25 points) are hot on his blades.

Chan needs something special to reel them in.

“I’ll think about the short program for a few minutes and that’s it,” he said. “I don’t mind being the underdog. I’m going to be like (short-track speed skater) Apolo Ohno and wait at the back until the last minute and then attack.”

Like Ohno’s sport, he’s going to need some guys to fall flat the way Frenchman Brian Joubert tumbled out of contention with only 68 points.

Chan is trying to recover from a season that once looked so lost.

He thought he had H1N1 flu. The weakness led to a calf injury. That led to injury rehab. He missed skates and struggled at others. Right before nationals, he parted from the coach (Don Laws) that was his link to his first one, the late Ozzie Colson.

Now, he has to find a way to salvage his Olympics.

Plushenko has no such concerns. He rubbed his stomach and said the lack of food lately had whittled him down to 68.1 kg (150.13 pounds).

“I’m on a diet,” he joked. “I want to be a figure skater.”

Plushenko could laugh after scoring 32 points on his first three elements — all jumps. He made one of only five planned quads in the field look rather easy.

“I’ll take whatever I get,” he said. “Fifth, fourth, third, second. I’m happy I had a clean skate. I agree with the marks. But anyone who says they are not tired after that, I will not believe them. That is a hard skate.”

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

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