Chan's seminars a big hit with Tri-State area teens

Two-time world silver medalist says time is right for quad

Patrick Chan poses with skaters at his seminar at the Mennen Sports Arena.
Patrick Chan poses with skaters at his seminar at the Mennen Sports Arena. (Jackie Owens)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(06/21/2010) - When Patrick Chan hit the ice for the first time at Morristown, N.J.'s Mennen Sports Arena, his temporary home-away-from-home, he had more than 50 awestruck skaters for company.

For two 75-minute sessions the two-time world silver medalist, still just 19, took on the role of mentor to skaters working to get an Axel, up to competitors with all of their double jumps and a triple or two.

"He was like my coach, except a lot cooler and cuter," Abby Kimmelman, 16, said.

The teen, who placed tenth in novice at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, usually trains with Debbie Davis at Sport-O-Rama in Monsey, N.Y., but Chan offered extra insight.

"He said when you're at a big competition like nationals -- or for him, the Olympics -- just keep thinking that no matter how nervous you are, 20 years from now you're going to look back and wish you could be there again, so go for it."

Mennen's director of skating, Jacqueline Kulik Palawasta, said Chan's visit adds a jolt of energy to the rink, which boasts a thriving Learn-to-Skate program and several former Olympians, including 1976 ice dance bronze medalist Colleen O'Connor, on its staff.

"[Patrick] is only 19, but he was so technical and so enthusiastic and so knowledgeable," she said. "You can know all that stuff but it is difficult to transfer, and he was able to make that transition. It was real inspiration for the kids; the blood is rushing now."

The three-time Canadian champion, along with mom Karen, is in Jersey visiting family and checking out universities but still needs to train for his season debut at the Liberty Summer Competition in Aston, Pa. in a few weeks. So the star will be practicing at Mennen through Wednesday, after which he heads to Toronto to polish programs with longtime choreographer Lori Nichol.

To Chan, teaching others was a great way to reinforce what his co-coach (with Nichol) Christy Krall has been drilling into him at his main training base at Colorado Springs World Arena.

"I'm just kind of spreading the word, spread the right technique," he said. "You can't go wrong with Christy with her Dartfish [a performance-enhancing sports aide]. There are no lies, the video is telling the truth; you can't go wrong. Christy's technique is really important to me, and I like to share it with other skaters."

After placing second at worlds to Japan's Daisuke Takahashi in Torino, Chan elected against heavy touring, taking time out to visit family and mull his next steps.

"After worlds I went to Korea to do Yu Na Kim's show ["Festa on Ice"], which was a blast, just out of this world," he said.

"From Korea I went to Singapore, and Thailand as well, to just visit. I have family who lives in Singapore, so I enjoyed myself there. Got to eat great food and got to see my cousins, who I rarely see because they live so far away. So I got to kind of decompress, get away from all of the Olympic stuff and skating, and re-think what I want to do, my career choices, kind of plan a new strategy."

Before arriving in New Jersey (he flew in from Colorado Springs last Thursday), Chan -- slowed by injuries last fall -- visited with trainer Andy O'Brien, a strength and conditioning coach for NHL players who also worked extensively with Dara Torres prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where the 41-year-old swimmer won three medals.

"[O'Brien] works at a private school [Edge School], a great facility, and he gave me my new workout plan for the year, phase 1," Chan said. "I have to go back every three or four months to update it. And then I just went to Colorado and started running through my programs, getting ready for Liberty."

Chan likes to do things his own way. The last several seasons, he has unveiled a new program at Liberty, and this July is no exception. That's early for a top competitor, but the young Canadian thinks it puts him a step ahead.

"I'm excited to go back out, especially after Olympics and worlds and a good vacation," he said. "It's hard to keep training without competing because competing motivates you to train, in a way. I need that. So that's why I go to Liberty, to kind of get that little extra boost of energy until I get to my first [fall] Grand Prix."

Last season, Chan not only attempted a quad in Aston -- landing it in the four-minute warm-up but missing it in competition -- but unveiled his Olympic free skate to music from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera.

"I kept the long because I didn't have the best season with it last year, so I hope to do it better," Chan said, after respectfully declining to name his new short.

"This year I'm a bit more ready than last year. Last year, it was like I blinked and Liberty was in two weeks, so I was hustling to get into shape. So obviously that didn't go too well."

Chan leaves New Jersey at the end of this week to return to Nichol in Toronto, where the two will put a few finishing touches on his new short and adapt Phantom of the Opera to the ISU's recently announced modifications to the International Judging System (IJS).

"We didn't get the rules until just a couple of days ago," he said. "So we couldn't do anything with the long, because we didn't know. Now that we know for sure, we're going to finalize the long program."

Nichol will not travel to Aston with Chan, but Krall -- along with many of Chan's World Arena training partners -- will be on hand.

"I would say 90 percent of the Colorado skaters are going to Liberty, which is great," he said.

"Every day I walk into the rink, I'm excited to be there; I'm excited to train. We go through the hard times together as a team, in a way. Even though we don't take from the same coaches, we still share the same suffering and pain and agony."

With two consecutive world silvers, Chan hopes putting a quad toe loop in both his short program and free skate might lead him to gold.

"We decided that if there's a year to really put it in both programs it's this year," the skater, who has yet to land the four-revolution jump in a major competition, said. "What am I going to wait for now? I said last year maybe I won't do it because the Olympics are coming up and I don't want to get hurt. But now I don't have any excuse; I have to put it out there.

"Brandon [Mroz] is in Colorado doing it no problem; there's no doubt in his mind that he's doing it in his programs. So I want to have that same mentality. I'm putting it in both programs. And I'm much more ready with the quad this year than I was last year, when I was training in Florida [with former coach Don Laws] prior to Liberty."

Despite his tender years, Chan is already thinking beyond skating. Having graduated from École secondaire Étienne-Brûlé, a French language school in Toronto, he's investigating universities and taking informational interviews on Wall Street to see if finance is in his future.

"[During this trip] I'm talking to a lot of people who are very successful, to see if business is what I want to study," he said. "I'm talking to [stock analysts] on the buy side and the sell side. Who knows? That's stuff I will figure out when I go to school.

"There's no doubt I will go; school is very important to me and my family. So I'm looking at all the great schools here on the east coast, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, all of those schools. I'm going to check out the schools on the west coast, too. Rachael [Flatt] going to Stanford, of course, ignited some interest in it. School is no doubt going to be upcoming soon."

For now, Chan's mum on any definite plans to put his skating career on the back burner, but he gives a hint.

"Skating is still important but school is also very important," he said. "School keeps your brain from getting mushy; it develops your brain and brings wisdom. For someone like me who was never really focused on school it's very important to experience college life properly, and that's why skating will be second to college."