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Chan's eventful day ends in short program win

In evening of imperfect programs, Canadian world champ comes out on top

Patrick Chan put on a show Friday night for the loyal Canadian fans.
Patrick Chan put on a show Friday night for the loyal Canadian fans. (AFP)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(12/10/2011) - Patrick Chan just may be bullet proof.

Who else could create a national controversy, and then hit the ice for a short program 2011 Grand Prix Final, land a quad toe-triple toe combination, crash into the boards and still lead the world's best by almost four points?

"I didn't do my homework; I did all quads in practice today without the triple toe," he said. "I didn't know how close I was [to the boards] when I stepped into it."

In a brilliant night of skating, all the men made mistakes in otherwise sterling programs. And Chan -- the world champion who is under fire in Canada for what some consider unpatriotic remarks made back in September -- came out on top.

"Tonight was pretty exciting for all of us," he said. "We all made some mistakes and made some miraculous saves."

Jeremy Abbott made a big save of his own, improvising a triple Lutz-triple toe combination in his Big Band program after a sloppy landing on his triple flip prevented him from trying the second jump. The two-time U.S. champion sits second with 82.66 points.

Javier Fernandez was no slouch in the save department either, cranking out a triple Lutz-double toe after landing so low on the Lutz he almost touched the ice. The surprising Spaniard, who is starting to look like the real deal, is third, 1.40 points behind Abbott.

But the night belonged to Chan, who told reporters he was uncertain how he would be greeted by the normally enthusiastic Canadian crowd.

"I was so excited to hear cheers and not boos," the 20-year-old said. "I was expecting to hear boos. To hear cheers gave me energy. I completely forgot about everything and just focused on skating."

After the exciting opening to his "Take Five" program, Chan's troubles weren't quite over. He put a hand down on a triple Axel, getting a negative grade of execution from the judges. The rest of the way was clear sailing, with Chan skimming over the ice at breakneck speed whilst performing spins and steps to their fullest.

Chan admitted the fall shook him a little.

"I was a little shaky on the Axel, and even going into my [camel combination] spin," he said. "The Axel is, or was, my worst jump. It's gotten a lot better since Paris [Trophée Eric Bompard]; we've worked on it a lot. If I had [hit the boards] last year, I would have fallen on the Axel. Even with the hand down, I'm happy I stayed on my feet."

Abbott called his intricate and entertaining Big Band short "a lot of work."

"I stepped out of the first jump and then didn't have a combo," he said. "I wasn't sure if they would count the step out as an extra jump. The whole program, I was like, 'Do I do the triple Lutz-triple toe or do I do the plain triple Lutz?'

"Going into the triple Axel I was thinking this; going into the spin I'm thinking this. Finally, I'm like, 'I have to make up my mind.' So I decided to do the Lutz-toe -- if they drop it, they drop it -- but I'm sticking to the plan. In the end, it was for the better because if I had no combo, I would be five points less."

The American had the best triple Axel of the night, and his program components were a little more than a point lower than Chan's, a huge accomplishment.

Fernandez' opened his jazzy "I Love Paris" program with a superb quad toe before running into trouble on a planned triple Lutz-triple toe combination. His triple Axel was fast and sure, and the second half of his routine, featuring a lot of snazzy steps, was a big hit with the crowd.

"I feel happy," said the 20-year-old, who moved to Toronto this summer to train under two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser. "I did some mistakes in my program today. I saved my combo; I have no idea how."

Although he opened a lot of eyes when he landed two different quads -- toe and Salchow -- en route to a 10th-place finish at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships, few expected Fernandez to sit third at this season's Grand Prix Final, including the skater himself.

"If you say to me in the beginning of the season I was going to be here, I would never believe it," he said. "When I did Skate Canada and I was second, I was already [thinking], 'Wow, what is going on?' Now I am here with these two guys again, and I am just happy to be here. I want to keep working and next year be here with these two guys again."

Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan's 2010 world junior champion, placed fourth with 79.33 points after falling out of an opening quad toe. His countryman, Daisuke Takahashi, also had quad trouble, two-footing and under-rotating his attempt, and later falling on an intended triple Lutz-triple toe combination in an otherwise mesmerizing program to "In the Garden of Souls." He earned 76.49 points.

Takahashi decided to try the quad toe instead of the quad flip he attempted at his earlier Grand Prix events.

"I cannot say my quad toe has been totally consistent here, but compared to my quad flip, it is a little bit better," Takahashi said through an interpreter. "Since I had my [knee] injury [in the fall of 2008], I am still trying to get back to my full jumping ability. It is getting better and better."

Czech Michal Brezina substituted a quad Salchow for a planned triple Lutz, and fell on the attempt. He is sixth with 75.26 points.