Patrick Chan strides boldly back to competition wars

Apparently, Patrick Chan lives on the edge. He wants his skating to do the same. We apparently have seen nothing yet.

And that, boys and girls, is why he is returning to the competitive skating wars next season, but not before he takes in a few more high-risk, death-defying activities.

Today he, Kaitlyn Weaver, Andrew Poje, Jeffrey Buttle, Eric Radford, and the instigator of all this risky business, Joannie Rochette, are going sky diving in Montreal, where the Stars On Ice tour has landed.  Chan doesn’t intend to tell his coach Kathy Johnson about this, but he says he’s sure she’ll be okay with it.

He certainly didn’t tell her the first time he did it a few weeks ago, down in Florida, with Rochette leading the way. “Joannie is quite the sky diver,” Chan said earlier today on a conference call. “It was a blast.” He admitted he was very scared. “Contemplated life,” he said.

At one point, Chan turned to his experienced jumping partner in the plane and noticed how high about the planet they were. He figured they were about ready to peel out of the door any minute. Not so. “We’re only half way,” he told Chan.

“Are you kidding me?” Chan said.

The anticipation and the waiting were eerily similar to that fluttery feeling that Chan endures after the six-minute warmup at a skating event, he said. The first two or three seconds out of the plane gave him more than goosebumps. Call it terror. “After that, it was such a great rush,” he said. “And I’m really in the moment and you enjoy every minute of it. And you pull [the ripcord], and oh my god, the view is amazing.

“And it just makes you realize how small I am – and not to bash on the figure skating world – but how small the figure skating world is. Many of us think that figure skating is our world and it’s huge and it’s all about us. But at the end of the day, the world is very big, and there are many, many people out there doing many, many different things. I ‘m just a part of this sport and I want to give the best I can and just have a great experience and have that rush. I live for that rush that I get from sky diving.”

It’s not the gold Olympic medal he’s missing that is pulling Chan back into this quixotic skating world – although he admits it’s at the back of his mind. He wants the rush of competing. He’s spent the past season doing all the things he never dared to do while competing: surfing, skiing in the back country, sky diving, where your life is on the line. It has all reminded him that he has a great life, and where he finishes at an event doesn’t affect who he is and what he does with his life. That mindset could make him dangerous next season.

Chan, now 24, feels he has more to give, particularly on the performance side of the sport. He doesn’t want to look back when he’s 40 and regret the hesitation. He wants to remember the feeling of complete satisfaction on an endeavour that will drive future generations to pop the DVD in a machine and say: “This is what skating should be.” He wants to try new things styles, new choreography. He wants to try music with lyrics, which he feels enhances choreographic adventures. He wants to expand his “vocabulary in movement and choreography,” he says.

More than ever, he feels there’s a place for that in the men’s discipline. Chan admits he did not watch the men’s event at the world championships in Shanghai last March. He watched only the ice dancing event, because his friends in Detroit were ice dancers competing there (Weaver and Poje, Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam).

Later, he used the magic of YouTube to watch the routines of Javier Fernandez and Olympic champ Yuzuru Hanyu. He skimmed through their programs. “That says a lot,” Chan said candidly. “It wasn’t that I disliked them. I like Javi and I love his jumps as well as Yuzu: his jumps and his triple Axel. I admire it and I admire a lot of elements of their programs. It’s just that’s what it is. I literally fast-forwarded through their biggest jumps and that’s it. Then I stopped watching.”

Chan feels that their skating hasn’t changed. “It doesn’t look any different. They’re skating to the same pieces of music and style.” Even though Fernandez skated to the Barber of Seville, Chan feels that Fernandez still exhibited very much a Charlie Chaplin style, which “totally works for him.” Chan says he’d love to see him do classical pieces. “Just because that’s what I would do if I was in that position,” he said. “I would challenge myself and do that.”

The skaters that brought the kind of special flair that Chan wants to bring to the skating world are ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who shocked the world by leaping from 13th to first in world standings in one season. Chan admits he knows nothing about ice dance, but he understands the feeling that the French team evoked. “When they skated, I was really taken away,” Chan said. “I was sitting at my house, at my computer, on my desk. I felt like I was in a whole different world. I was taken into their world. I was enchanted. I felt they expressed the emotion of pain and love, and all that cheesy stuff. (!)

“But I felt that it really came out on the computer screen. Imagine that. That’s what I look for these days. The reason I do extreme stuff like jumping out of an airplane is to get that extreme feeling. I had goosebumps watching them. That’s a good sign.”

He wants to get back into the regimented world of competing. David Wilson will be choreographing his routines: “Stepping Out” for the short program (music he used for exhibitions during the 2013-14 season) and a revamping of the long program that we’ve seen only at last year’s Japan Open, which he won convincingly by 23 points over Fenandez. (Hanyu wasn’t there.) The music? Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude.

So drink to that. Chan can help with that, too. In June, Ontarians will be able to buy his own label of ice wine, bottled up in Niagara.


11 thoughts on “Patrick Chan strides boldly back to competition wars

  1. Good for him! And good for us! I love his skating and will look forward to seeing him in Halifax, if not before. I did see him at Stars on Ice in Ottawa and in Peterborough earlier this season. I hope he can create what he wants to express!

  2. What he said about Hanyu and Fernandez was quite cocky, really. As if he’s one to talk about stagnant skating styles. I love his skating skills for sure, but it’s so much easier to root for Yuzu and Javi’s humility and respect for their competitors. Next season, Chan better back up his statements and blow everyone out of the water, otherwise his words will come back to bite him (AGAIN).

  3. I’m glad that Patrick is coming back. He is a great skater and I enjoy his skating. However, he tends to rub me the wrong way with his interviews. I don’t understand how Patrick can say that Hanyu and Fernandez aren’t pushing boundaries etc. Hanyu’s Chopin is a departure from his past programmes and demonstrates his growth as a skater. It is restraint and just beautiful. His free skate programme had a higher degree of difficulty which had to be toned down due to injuries and health issues. And to make a sweeping comment on the state of the men’s field even without watching everything and just skimming through is just ridiculous.

    1. I actually quite loved Hanyu’s programs this year. Beautiful. And that subtle closing of his fists at the end. And Fernandez’s Black Betty was new for him, too. And I loved it.

  4. I don’t believe for an instant that Patrick is criticizing Hanyu & Javier. I think he’s talking about something on a different level than the way some readers are taking it. I think the year off will invigorate Patrick’s skating if he doesn’t die in a sky diving accident before then.(:-O) I suspect that over the next three seasons we’ll see the best of Patrick Chan’s skating and these new artistic directions he’s talking about may expand his style so he becomes like Kurt Browning, able to interpret just about anything I’m very interested in what he will bring forth this season!

  5. He doesn’t seem to have learned anything after the loss at Sochi.
    He should stop critisizing other skaters and mind his own business.

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