Chan confident he can win

Chan confident he can win

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency



VANCOUVER — Patrick Chan refuses to arm himself with a rabbit.

So the question is, what’s he going to pull out of his hat in Thursday’s freeskate program?

And, without the rabbit — the quad — does he have enough to move up and earn an Olympic medal?

“I am not out of it,” said Chan after practice Wednesday. “I’m actually, technically, in second place because the points are so close. And the long program is a while different beast. So we’ll see how we handle it.”

The 19-year-old Toronto skater sits in seventh place in the men’s singles competition with a score of 81.12 heading into the free, following a shaky short program Tuesday. He trails Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi, who is in third place with 90.25, by more than 10 points. In second is defending world champion Evan Lysacek of the U.S. (90.30) with 2006 Olympic king Evgeni Plushenko of Russia holding on to first after an amazing short program which saw him land a quadruple toe-triple toe combination to earn first-place marks of 90.85.

Chan’s long program, performed to a selection from the musical Phantom of the Opera, is spectacular when he does it well. But, clearly, not only will he need to be at his absolute best to ascend to the podium, he’ll need most of the skaters ahead of him to falter, which is unlikely.

There is precedence, however. At the 2006 Turin Olympics, Canada’s Jeff Buttle sat sixth after the short and climbed all the way to earn the bronze medal following an excellent, though not perfect, freeskate program. He fell on an attempted quad.

“That’s the one thing I thought about (Tuesday) when I got off the ice,” said Chan. “Jeff didn’t have the best short (in Turin) and he (moved to third).”

But Buttle also received help from a number of skaters ahead, who faltered in their freeskates, including France’s Brian Joubert, who won the world championship in 2007.

Plushenko won that event with a world record score of 167.67 after his freeskate performed to the music from The Godfather. His freeskate program included a quad-triple-double combo. Here, his freeskate is performed to the Tango Amore by Edvin Marton.

But Chan has insisted repeatedly that, even though he has landed the quad in practice, he will definitely not attempt the jump here at the Olympics. But the fact top-ranked skaters such as Chan and Lysacek have said the quad isn’t the end-all and be-all, nor should it be, does not sit well with those who believe that jumps are a major, if not THE major, element in men’s skating.

“The naysayers believe the quadruple does not need to be included to succeed at these Olympics,” said Elvis Stojko, the three-time world champion, in his blog on yahoo.com. “However, this is a sport where the element of risk is needed. Boring is the program without the challenge. If you want to pull the ‘artistry’ card, then go watch a show.”

American Johnny Weir, who is in sixth place, said the quad actually backfired for some in the short and may not be worth trying in the freeskate.

“(Tuesday) night there was one clean quadruple jump — first place,” he said. “And more people who tried quadruple jumps are in 17th and 18th place. I think it doesn’t matter. I think you have to skate with your heart.”

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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