Ice Network

Chan embraces underdog role at Grand Prix Final

Duhamel, Radford leave out throw quad lutz; Weaver, Poje set to defend
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Patrick Chan says he's "calm and collected and rested" entering the Grand Prix Final. -Getty Images

Patrick Chan isn't panicking.

The three-time world champion feels fortunate just to have qualified for next week's Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, after his fifth-place finish in the short program at Trophée Eric Bompard (before the event was canceled because of the terrorist attacks in Paris) left him on the bubble.

"That's a bonus," he said.

Then there's the matter of Yuzuru Hanyu blasting all sorts of world records while winning the NHK Trophy last week. Many have wondered what the Olympic champion could score if he skated two programs cleanly, at the top of his game.

"Now we know," Chan said. "Now that it's in front of everybody's eyes, it's less of a mystery. For me, it kind of calms me down. It's something tangible I can reach for."

He now has a goal of aiming for that unprecedented score of 322.40 -- 27.13 points better than Chan's best -- and maybe exceeding it.

That's not likely to happen at the Grand Prix Final, where Chan will neither alter his plan nor increase his technical difficulty. While Hanyu has five quads in his arsenal, Chan has three. Chan defeated Hanyu easily at Skate Canada, but Hanyu stumbled mightily in both the short progam and free skate there.

"I don't think it's fair to think of revamping my whole program just because someone else did," Chan said.

With all eyes on Hanyu, Chan sees himself as underdog entering the Grand Prix Final.

"I feel calm and collected and rested," Chan said. "I think I'm in a good head space."

It will be a different environment in Barcelona, as compared to the qualifying events, because for the first time the top three men (including world champion Javier Fernández) will all be competing against one another at once.

"It changes the energy," Chan said. "It changes the vibe. It changes the dynamic between everyone on the ice, and who knows, maybe even the dynamic between the judges and how they feel, seeing us all on one surface."

If he feels he must alter his program content, he will do it after the Grand Prix Final, when he will have six weeks to prepare for his next competition, the Canadian championships.

"But I'm not at a point in my career where I feel I need to prove to people that I have a lot more in my arsenal," Chan said. "I'm honestly not prepared for it. It's still early in the run to the next Olympics. I'm going to take my time and be strategic."

Four of his Canadian teammates will be going as favorites: reigning world pairs champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and world ice dancing bronze medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. Both swept their Grand Prix events this season, the only ones in their disciplines to do so.

Duhamel and Radford were at NHK only last week, and have a quick turnaround to Barcelona, with only four days to train at home. They've been busy changing things, to make things run more smoothly. Although they've had two strong competitions, they've also had two bumpy rides, as they struggled with their newest weapon: the throw quad lutz.

The throw quad lutz has made this season very different from last.

"Last year, we just wanted to be very comfortable," Radford said. "We had no expectations, and we just had that throw quad salchow in there for a bonus.

"But this season, we've kind of demanded of ourselves that the throw quad [salchow] should be more consistent, and we've been figuring out whether to put in or take out the throw quad lutz. And that has just added more to think about, which in turn is taking more time for us to become completely comfortable with these programs."

In Barcelona, they will set aside the element and go for a clean, confidence-building free skate, just as they had at Skate Canada.

"Strategically, right now, as much as we want to be the first team to land the quad lutz, it's not necessary at this point in the game," Duhamel said.

Weaver and Poje are not taking anything for granted at the Grand Prix Final.

"This season, so far, has been very successful but a little bit unpredictable," Weaver said.

They had to drastically change their short dance before Skate Canada, and finally they are getting positive feedback on their "Bitter Earth" free dance.

"We were a little curious at the start of the season if people would understand what we were going for," Weaver said.

Last year, Weaver and Poje won the Final, but they know that their season will be remembered more for their third-place finish at the world championships than their victory in Barcelona.

"I think it was an amazing accomplishment for us, especially given the margin that we won by (14.05 points)," Weaver said.

"It gave us tons of confidence going into the rest of the season. But one thing we learned from last year: that doesn't really mean anything at worlds. You still have to bring it at every competition.

"We learned that the hard way. We definitely want to repeat and be champions in Barcelona, but we understand we have to grow and push, and push every event until the bitter end."

In their first year competing as full-time seniors, pairs team Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau also qualified for the Grand Prix Final.