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Chan takes chances at Liberty

Canadian champion plans to show off two new programs, plus re-vamped triple Axel

Last season, Patrick Chan became the youngest Canadian men's champ, ever.
Last season, Patrick Chan became the youngest Canadian men's champ, ever. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/16/2008) - Patrick Chan is young, fearless and ambitious -- traits that helped him qualify for the 2007/2008 ISU Grand Prix Final at just 16 years of age, and win the Canadian men's title at just 17.

So while some national champions are working out their new programs in the privacy of their rinks, the northern star is competing at the Liberty Summer Competition, testing out some fresh moves.

"Why not?" Chan, who splits his time between Toronto and Orlando, Fla., said.

"We came here especially to show the [new] long program, get it out there. I really don't have that much time [until the fall season]. The more I do the better. It's still a bit rough, but what the heck, that's life."

Chan's free skate, set to Rachmaninoff's "Cello Sonata," was choreographed by Lori Nichol "a month or two ago," he said. "After that, I took a short break. When I got back to Florida a week-and-a-half ago, I still hadn't done a full run-through."

His short, to "Tango de Roxanne," based on music by The Police was also created by Nichol. After getting some feedback, Chan plans to return to Toronto to polish the programs with his choreographer.

"I want to get this [Rachmaninoff] program done, and done well," he explained. "Last year was my second season doing the Vivaldi long, so perfecting a new free is quite a challenge for me. Doing the second triple Axel in the free is another big goal."

Chan's coach, Don Laws, calls his student's new free "magnificent, one of the best I've seen. The only concern I have is if the technical specialists will be able to take it all in. I know they watch practices, but with the complicated new rules for footwork [sequences], they really have to study."

The veteran coach, who guided Scott Hamilton to the 1984 Olympic gold medal, added that "the key to Patrick's success is to skate clean programs. It's the only way."

To that end, Chan is also itching to test out some new jumping skills.

"I kind of changed my technique on the [triple] Axel; I compare it to when Tiger [Woods] changed his golf swing," the skater laughed.

"I plan on showing two [triple Axels] in the long here, but right now, it's a little hit-and-miss. When I do it, it's really good; the landings are quieter, and there is much more flow. It's not ideal to test it [in competition] right now, but the change was really spur-of-the-moment and as I said, why not try?"

When he returns to train at Orlando's RDV Sportsplex after Liberty, Chan plans to work on a quadruple toe loop.

"I've landed the quad in practice, but that was two summers ago in Barrie [Ontario] and I don't know how it will be this time," he admitted. "But I need it, and it's another step in the process."

After unexpectedly wresting the Canadian title from three-time champion Jeffrey Buttle in January, Chan went on to place ninth at his first world championship in Gothenburg, Sweden. Although the top-ten result helped his country earn three men's spots for the 2009 worlds, the perfectionist teen was a bit disappointed.

"It was a real wake-up call," he said. "It's not only the national championships that define a career; there are world championships, Grand Prix events. Nationals is just the cheese on a pepperoni pizza."