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Chan stumbles, but still wins free skate at Liberty

World silver medalist debuts new Phantom of the Opera program

Patrick Chan struggled with his jumps, but he still enjoyed his program in Aston, Pa.
Patrick Chan struggled with his jumps, but he still enjoyed his program in Aston, Pa. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/19/2009) - The jumps aren't quite there yet, but, judging from Saturday's early-season skate at the Liberty Summer Competition, Patrick Chan's Phantom of the Opera promises to be spectacular.

"It was fun. Every time I fell, I would just get up and think, 'Who cares?' because it's the first time I've competed the program," said the two-time Canadian champion.

No one, except maybe Chan's coach, Don Laws, fixated on the skater's tumbles on a triple Axel, quad toe and some steps. They were too busy taking in the complexity of the skater's footwork and transitions, which were so difficult that Chan wasn't sure he could do them all at first.

"The third day we worked on the program, I told my choreographer, Lori Nichol, 'I don't know about this,' but I heard everyone talking about how amazing it looked, so now I'd hate to make big changes," he said.

"I do have to figure out the [circular] steps. I was late on them, and I've been late in all my practices, too. I have to talk to Lori about how to fix them."

The world silver medalist earned 127.46 points, including some 70.76 points for his program components. He fell on his first two jumps -- the triple Axel and quad toe -- before landing a triple flip-double toe combination.

Chan's quad attempt was a late addition. He hit a clean one in the six-minute warm-up and decided to put it in his program. Despite the fall, the skater got credit for rotating the attempt and earned five points.

"I just got up after the Axel and said why not," Chan said. "I've got to start trying the quad in competition, and what better place than this?"

Chan has nearly three months until his next event, Russia's Rostelecom Cup, plenty of time to refine the program and get more comfortable with the jumps. He plans to train it in three sections and will start to include the quad in his run-throughs.

Laws last led a skater to Olympic gold in 1984, when Scott Hamilton stood atop the podium. Now, more than a quarter century later, history may repeat itself.

"It's hard to think about anything like that," Laws said. "It's another era -- no, maybe it's the second era since Scott's time. The demands on the men are extraordinary. You have to show a quad, and all the triples, and Level 4 spins and footwork. Patrick gets the spins and footwork; he's still working on the quad."

U.S. junior champion Ross Miner took second place with an impressive outing to a Tango free that racked up 121.75 points.

The 18-year-old from the Skating Club of Boston turned out of his opening triple Axel but recovered with a brilliant triple Lutz-triple toe combination and four other triples.

"My coaches, Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson, have done a really good job maturing my skating, although obviously I have a long way to go," Miner said. "Last year, my long [to Gershwin tunes] was all about having fun.

"At first, I was really, really scared when Mark played this music for me. I'd never skated to anything so mature and serious. Step by step, Mark had me run through the program until I was comfortable."

Miner is just a few credits short of his high school diploma and plans to finish up this fall.

"I'm applying to colleges this year, pretty much in the Boston area," he said.

Keegan Messing took third with an entertaining program to the soundtrack of Hulk.

The diminutive Alaskan dressed the part, with torn jeans and flannel shirt showing green-colored skin. He opened with a solid triple Axel, followed by a sterling triple Lutz-triple toe combination that drew +1 Grades of Execution across the board. His only flaws were turning out on his second triple Axel and an incorrect outside edge take-off on his triple flip. He earned 118.42 points.

"This program gives me two ways to express the music," Messing said. "As the Hulk I can go out there and be myself and be wild, but, as Dr. David Banner, I have to go out and compose myself."

Douglas Razzano, who won the senior men's short program yesterday, was fourth with 115.06 points. Skating to music from The Red Violin, the 20-year-old hit an impressive opening triple Axel, followed by a fully rotated attempt at a quad toe.

"I first did [the Axel] in 2005, and then two seasons ago I started to get serious about it again," he said. "I've really been working with my choreographer, Shin Amano, to improve my presentation."

Armin Mahbanoozadeh was fifth with 114.78 points.