Patrick Chan has been through the valley of doubt and has come through the other side. The proof? He took part at Skate Canada’s national team training camp on Wednesday in Mississauga, Ont., along with the best figure skaters in the country.
Yes, he had his doubts after a year off, trying to get his body back into competitive shape, trying to get those triple Axels and quads back after hitting the show circuit last season.
“There were moments when I called [coach Kathy Johnson] and [felt] like: ‘What am I doing? Why am I doing this? This is really stupid. Should I really be doing this? Should I really be coming back?” he recalled.
Those were the rough days, the ones he knew deep down that he had to muddle through. “There was a sense of worry,” he said. “Am I ever going to do it again? Maybe I’m too old for this. Maybe my body just can’t do it anymore. And that mixed in with trying to lose weight to be more competitive and athletic. That all mixed together made it kind of frustrating.”
But there he was in Mississauga, slipping around the ice like the old Patrick Chan, with the effortless speed and command of the blade. Reigning Canadian champion Nam Nguyen found it cool, and quite interesting to see Chan whip by him at the speed of light.
Chan said over the past several weeks, when he first showed off his “Mack The Knife” short program at a north Toronto rink, he’s lost about eight pounds, and that has made all the difference. By the end of the Stars on Ice tour, he weighed 158 pounds. When he competed at the Sochi Olympics, winning the silver medal, he weighed 153-154. But really, he wanted to be at 150, which is what he weighed when he won his first world title in 2011. “I noticed that my quads and my jumps were much lighter and my margin for error – my air position – was much larger so if I didn’t feel perfect in the air, I was still able to save itm” he said.
Yes, men do think about their weight in figure skating too. Chan has noticed that weight makes “a huge difference” in the quality of jumps, the lift he can get off the ice and the flow out of the jump.
The good news is that Chan knew he’d have to take the time to rein himself into shape, because it would be slow at first. Therefore he got his programs done early, in June, giving himself a nice chunk of time to “weather the bumps and the ups and downs and get through it.
“I think now I’m in the good rhythm of things,” he said. “I’m comfortable training again.”
He’s coming at competition this year with a dangerous mindset – dangerous to others, that is. “I feel like I’m really doing it because I want to,” he said. “I make sure every day that I’m in because I want to be in. I don’t force myself to do anything, honestly, because I’ve been through this. I know I can make myself do it if I want to. Let’s say I’m not feeling great one day, because I’ve got a cold. I’m smart enough to know that I should take time to rest and not push through stuff that I know my body won’t be able to do.”
He’s training smarter and he’s not back to further up the ante on all the crazy quad jumping that’s going on everywhere. He’s seen everybody doing the quads, including Nguyen. Good, says Chan, Bring it on. It’s great for skating. It brings more excitement and it’s good for Canada.
But he’s not focused on killing himself doing quads. He’s been in both worlds, the show circuit and the competitive one, and “when you focus on the quad so much, it really does take away from the quality of skating and the quality of the performance,” said Chan. “And that’s not what I’m about at this point ion my career.”
No, Chan is more about handing out goosebumps with a performance, making people get off their seats with joy, and feeling the chills creep up the spine. “That’s what I really live for, not the jumps,” he said.
He’s also going into it with a good measure of generosity. Nguyen is now his competitor. And since Chan has been gone, Nguyen has exploded onto the scene, finishing fifth at the world championships at age 16. The way Chan sees it, he’s at Nguyen’s disposal. In other words, he’ll help him to defeat him.
Chan remembers when he competed against world champion Jeffrey Buttle, a brilliant artist that Chan admitted he never opened up to. He never went to him and asked his advice: What’s it like being at the world championships in the last group? What’s it like skating last at the Olympics? In retrospect, Chan thinks he should have asked. Now he and Buttle are “best buds.” Buttle has choreographed programs for him.
“When you’re at that age, you’re in your own world in a way,” Chan said. “But I’m always here to try to give advice. I think I’ve had a lot of experience in my career that I can share. That’s why we go through these experiences, so that we can share.”
Spoken like a true champ.
Chan won’t do a senior B competition, but he’ll probably show up at a competition in Quebec later this month, just to get his short program out there. He’ll compete at the Japan Open in early October again. Last year, he won it.