Three-time world champion Patrick Chan, beleaguered at the world championships in his comeback year last season – he was a fumbly fifth – has fallen quite happily into a good place.
He’s stepping into the Skate Canada International wars this week, with a plan to do THREE quads in the long program for the first time.
Last season, he started with one quad in the long and didn’t add another until the Canadian championships in January. He has never done three quads in the long.
He attempted only two at his first start of the year, Finlandia Trophy, but now he’s going for a new quad, the Salchow. He landed a lovely one in practice on Thursday. “I know a little more what to do to be successful,” Chan said at the Hershey Centre, where he skated 17 years ago as a juvenile. (He knows this ice better than anybody.) “It felt great on practice today.”
Chan’s quest to return to competitive status needed something. And he’s found it at the Canton club in Detroit, with ice dancing coach Marina Zoueva, Oleg Opstein and Johnny Johns and whoever else happens by to give him a timely tip. And that might be 17-year-old competitor Nathan Chan, who defeated Chan at Finlandia Trophy. Chen can humble Chan. Chan can humble Chen. Together, they are ferocious.
For Chan, it has been a happy accident that Chen came to Zoueva for choreography, and never left. “He’s smart,” Chan said. “He knows what he needs. He knows his weaknesses. “
Chan knows his weaknesses, too, that being that so many young men, Chen included, are ramping up the quads in their programs faster than moths to the light. And Chen, Chan admits, is “the epitome of what skating has become.”
The 25-year-old Chan – eight years Chen’s senior – could have become totally discombobulated at the sight of what such a youngster can do: quad Lutzes, quad flips, five quads in a long program. But Chan has chosen to use Chen as a motivating factor. And it has sped up his own progression in the quad department.
“I see it every day,” Chan said. “I see how technically stronger he is than I am. I’ve learned to accept it and just be amazed at the ability of these kids.”
It’s motivated him indeed to drop in this quad Salchow at the FIRST major competition of the season. Every morning he strolls into Canton and sees a quad Lutz. “God, are you kidding me?” Chan says under his breath. “I never thought this would be possible.
“But it also makes me go into the quad Salchow, thinking, okay, this is just another jump. Don’t make a big deal of it because he landed a quad Lutz, which is nearly impossible for me.”
Chen has made everything seem normal to Chan. “He just whips off these jumps and doesn’t think twice.” Chan did that when he was younger, too.
Now Chan has Zoueva as a musical/presentation backboard, and Epstein and Johns for the technical side. The feedback is good. Chan admits that bodies change over the years. And his quad toe today does not look like the quad toe he did in 2011, when he was 20 years old.
Chen has the nerve to help Chan when he is struggling with a quad. He’ll tell him he didn’t check enough, or he needed to be a little more patient. All of this helps Chan. “It’s amazing, because I don’t know if I would have done that when I was 17 to go out of my way to talk to a successful, much older skater,” Chan said.
As for Zoueva, she feels privileged to have Chan in her rink. She thinks of him as a Rembrandt painting, a work of art. “Ice is my home,” she said. “It’s my house. It’s like always there is a piece of art, his skating, in it.”
If Chan is a little bedeviled by his age, compared to Chen, Zoueva reasons with him, that he’s not old at all, that Zhao Hongbo was no spring chicken when he won Olympic gold (36), that George Foreman was 45 when he won the world heavyweight boxing championships, after having dropped out of the sport for 10 years.
“Age is no matter,” Zoueva told him. “You can be at the Olympics at 16, like Katya Gordeeva. It just matters what you feel and what you want.”
Chan, she said, just needs to believe that he can do it, that “he really can do anything.”
Yes, Chan said. Zoueva always knows the right thing to say.