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Chan captures gold medal at Four Continents

Lysacek wins silver; Kozuka the bronze

Chan led from start to finish at Four Continents. Only two other men -- Daisuke Takahashi and Evgeni Plushenko -- have ever scored higher under the new judging system.
Chan led from start to finish at Four Continents. Only two other men -- Daisuke Takahashi and Evgeni Plushenko -- have ever scored higher under the new judging system. (Getty Images)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(02/07/2009) - Evan Lysacek had a message for the young guns here at the ISU Four Continents Championships in Vancouver.

To paraphrase: Don't count the old guys out.

Still, the grizzled veterans are going to have to show some gumption to top Canadian upstart Patrick Chan when the world comes to Los Angeles in March.

Chan, 18, outdistanced the field here by just over 12 points to claim the men's title in his first appearance at this championship. He led from start to finish, committing only one major error in two performances which earned a total of 249.19 points. Only two other men -- Daisuke Takahashi and Evgeni Plushenko -- have ever scored more since the new judging system was introduced after the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics judging scandal.

Former U.S. men's champion Lysacek, 23, posted 237.15 points and snagged silver with a gutsy performance that left him spent, but definitely relieved, by the time the clock wound down on his four-and-a-half-minute program.

When France's Brian Joubert claimed the European title last month, he did it with a total of just 232.01.

Japan's Takahiko Kozuka, 19, who finished with 221.76 points and the bronze medal, fell on his opening quadruple attempt, regrouped to nail six triple jumps, but then stumbled on his final triple Axel which was downgraded to a double. That performance was worth 145.15.

Chan opened with a picture-perfect triple Axel and delivered seven triples in total, but he lost more than seven points when his second Axel popped into a single. The Toronto teen's spins were superb and he closed his performance with an amazingly complex footwork sequence that was judged to be a Level 4, the highest level that is seldom awarded for that element.

Chan also scored very high marks for his performance and interpretation of a cello sonata and piano concerto by Rachmaninov.

The twice Canadian champion followed Lysacek in the line-up. Chan heard the scores his rival had posted, but quickly turned his focus back onto the job he had to do.

"I knew that if I did a solid program with at least one triple Axel, I should be OK, and it always helps to have a good lead after the short," chuckled Chan, who was seven points up on Lysacek after round one.

"It was actually very intense," Chan said of this week's competition. "Looking back a few weeks ago, I don't think I really knew who was coming here. Still, I came in having fun. Before the long program, I said, 'You know, this is fun.'

"Worlds is really the time where I really have to focus more and concentrate on every element and every detail," added Chan, who was ninth in his senior worlds debut in 2008, but clinched gold twice on the Grand Prix circuit last fall.

"It was something to learn, because it just shows if I think about having fun, I skate well, so I think it's something to learn for worlds," suggested Chan, who is coached by Don Laws in Orlando, Fla.

Lysacek, twice a world bronze medalist, opened his "Rhapsody in Blue" program with a solid quadruple toe-loop. He was the only man among the top six to execute that jump without flaw. However, the very next jump -- a triple Axel -- was downgraded to a double and he touched a hand-down to keep from falling. In addition to the quad, Lysacek got credit for seven triples.

"Last season I landed a quad in each competition I went to -- this is my first one this season. It was kind of starting to be a monkey on my back this year. The jump had been going great in practice and great in warm up -- it just wasn't happening in the competition," said the two-time U.S. champion who took the Four Continents title in 2005 and 2007 and finished with bronze last year.

At the outset of this event, Lysacek admitted it was difficult for him to rally to compete here after the disappointment of losing his title at the U.S. Championships a little more than a week earlier. By the end of the week, he was definitely glad he came.

"Not to be rude, but I wanted to beat those other guys that were ahead of me at nationals because I wanted to prove the old guys aren't going out," Lysacek said. "I know a lot of my peers have been on the way out, but some of us are still here, still training, and we're adapting to the rules because we've gone through so many judging systems."

Lysacek, who missed the 2008 World Championships due to injury, said his showing in Vancouver this week will add to the fire as prepares to take on the world's elite in his home city.

While Chan and Lysacek delivered close to their potential on Saturday scoring 160.29 and 155.50, respectively for their long programs, the rest of the top six men struggled and stumbled through their finales.

Jeremy Abbott, 23, recently crowned Grand Prix Final and U.S. national champion, had a worse go of it. The quadruple toe-loop he planned to open with was short two revolutions and he fell on a triple Lutz which the panel downgraded to a double. Six triples did materialize but with 141.27 points, he ranked just sixth in the long and settled for fifth overall with 216.94.

Nobunari Oda, 21, who won this event in 2006, climbed from sixth to fourth in the final standings (220.26) with the third-best free skate, but his quadruple attempt also proved costly. He fell and the technical panel ruled it was short a revolution, as well.

The third U.S. man, Brandon Mroz, 18, had big problems with his triple Axels and dropped back from fifth to eigth overall (196.78).

Saturday's final brought the 2009 Four Continents Championships to a close.

The competition staged in Pacific Coliseum -- the 2010 Olympic venue -- proved to be a great motivator for the competitors determined to return in one year's time to live their Olympic dreams.

"I would be thrilled to make the Olympic team," said Caroline Zhang, of the U.S., who finished fourth here. "I think it's been just great to be able to skate on this ice before the Olympics."

The Canadian, U.S., Japanese, Chinese and South Korean teams all leave Vancouver with medals in their luggage.

The golds went to four different countries -- China, the U.S., Korea and Canada. Canada mined the most hardware with one gold and three silvers, while the U.S. took one gold, one silver and one bronze.

In the on-going rivalry between Japan and Korea in the women's event, Korea prevailed this time with Yu-Na Kim claiming gold, while Mao Asada settled for bronze. Joannie Rochette, with the silver, showed she cannot be counted out as a threat for the world and Olympic title.

As is often the case, Chinese pairs came away with two medals -- gold to Qing Pang and Jian Tong and bronze to Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang -- while Canada's Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison were sandwiched in between.

Newly-crowned U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White took the ice dance title in an upset over Canadian world silver medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates, of the U.S., were delighted with bronze.

California, here they come.