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.