It hurt to watch.
This “Hallelujah” was a broken Hallelujah, in Leonard Cohen’s world. In any world.
Skating to Cohen’s masterpiece, Patrick Chan finished seventh in the free skate at Skate Canada International on Saturday. And his voice sounded hollow.
Second in components (90.86) but only 10th of 12 in technical prowess (61.41) , Chan had to let the churning waters rush over him and wait for a better day.
Trouble is, his next go-around is in only two weeks at NHK Trophy in Japan, only the second time in his career that he has competed there. He contested NHK the first year that he turned senior internationally, so many years ago. “It’s come full circle,” he said. “It’s been quite a journey.” But this part of the journey is a little cloudy.
“I never had a skate like that in a big event,” Chan said. The problems started early: he fell on his opening quad toe loop that was to be part of a quadruple-triple combo, had a hand down on the triple Lutz, tripled another quad toe, and then suffered a endless string of doublings.
“I felt good and calm and when they called my name, I felt confident and my body felt somewhat good then,” he said. “But then I think the first fall kind of shocked me. It was a bit of a surprise. It’s been a bit of a rough road here.”
The bumpy ride started when his travel plans from Detroit went awry and his luggage didn’t arrive until just before his short program. It was a frustrating, unsettling trip. Perhaps it lingered behind his brows.But Chan said his problems in the free were physical. Sometimes, they are connected, even when you don’t know it.
In replays, Chan could see that his upper body was a little high and his legs weren’t being patient (sometimes they have a life of their own), and they weren’t taking the time to “load and jump.” The timing was too quick.
“I can only control what I can control,” he said.
Coach Marina Zoueva told him that it was good that Chan came to Skate Canada nonetheless. He needed to get started. He had only a minor local competition early in the season and then pulled out of Nebelhorn Trophy because new skates he had ordered had been delayed in arriving and he didn’t feel confident at the time in them. He hated to miss Nebelhorn. So he had to be full throttle at Skate Canada, at home.
“It was hard for me to get started this year,” Chan said. “Maybe because I know the end is near. So it’s getting harder and harder and harder to push myself and keep grinding it out at the very highest level. It gets tough.”
“Yeah it sucks but I’ve had great days too, so I’ve got to trade it off sometimes, too,” he said.
Chan doesn’t have very long to right his ship at the NHK Trophy. He’s going to take things one day at a time. “But it’s hard,” he said. “It’s definitely much harder now. I come to these events and the novelty has worn off a bit and eventually on a year like this year, I just really want to take my time and not panic.
“If making mistakes is how I have to get to the Olympics, then that’s how it is and that’s okay,” he said. “I really have had a lot of success this whole career. If I have another one, great. If I don’t, then it’s okay. I know it’s part of the process.”
He was asked if he would ever just withdraw from NHK and focus on gathering his strengths for nationals, the Olympic qualifying event.
Okay, that’s an idea, he said, and it’s a strategy. But travel for Chan is tough – not just this past week but he’s always felt drained from long trips and long hauls.
“Look at this week,” he said. “You got moments like that, you just kind of throw your hands up and …I’m not a fan of this. I’d rather be home and be in my own bed and be comfortable.”
It’s tempting to just give NHK a pass, he said, “But sometimes you’ve got to define when to push yourself through the tough times. When you really don’t want to, you have to push yourself or whether it does mean just pulling yourself back. “
He’ll have to figure this out in the next week.
Meanwhile, getting through that rough skate, Chan said he just started thinking out how he felt. He felt tired, like he was just about to go to bed. His legs were heavy. He tried to keep the intensity of the program,
“I hope I at least did that and finished the program with a strong footwork sequence,” he said
Then he paused, realizing what he was saying. “I mean, look at me,” he said. “I’m trying to find the good in this footwork sequence, when everyone is doing quads.
“Not much positive I can say at this event, but it’s okay.
“It’s okay. I just keep telling myself that it’s okay.”
The heartwarming part, the heartbreaking part, was that when Patrick took his final, wilted bow, the crowd at the Brandt Centre began to stand and cheer. And cheer for Patrick Chan.