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Refreshed Chan sees fewer stumbles in future

Canadian welcomes faceoff with Plushenko, plans more quads

Patrick Chan swept gold at Skate Canada, Trophee Bompard and the Grand Prix Final.
Patrick Chan swept gold at Skate Canada, Trophee Bompard and the Grand Prix Final. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/17/2012) - It's said what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. That's certainly true for Patrick Chan, who turned 21 on Dec. 31 and celebrated with a four-day trip to the Strip that gave him a complete break from his sport.

"It was exhilarating," Chan said on a media teleconference Friday. "It was a chance to be myself, to get out of the good and the bad of skating. I left Vegas almost forgetting I was a skater."

After taking his fill of Cirque de Soleil and the blackjack tables, the world champion -- a shoo-in to win his fifth consecutive Canadian title in Moncton, New Brunswick next week -- returned to his training base in Colorado Springs, Colo. with a fresh attitude. First on his list: improve the fluidity of his free skate, choreographed by Lori Nichol to Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez."

"I've got great energy," Chan said. "The program is becoming consistent. It's better quality skating. I'm almost feeling like I was before last year's world championships."

That's bad news for other skaters, who could be forgiven for hoping that the Chan train would slow down a bit. The Canadian admitted to losing some money in Vegas, but he's won his past six major events; his last defeat, at the hands of Tomas Verner, came at the 2010 Rostelecom Cup. (Ricky Dornbush edged Chan in the free skate at 2011 Golden West, a U.S. summer competition.) At the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships in Moscow, Chan earned an ISU-record 280.98 points, some 22 points more than silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka.

Although he has won his first three international events this fall, including an 11-point victory over Daisuke Takahashi at the Grand Prix Final in Quebec City last month, it hasn't all been clear sailing. Chan received deductions for falls in each of his programs this season. Now, he said, those tumbles may stop.

"My last few competitions were not bad. Each competition was more successful than the last," he said. "What was noticeable was my skating was very frantic, as opposed to having a nice pace, like I did last year with the Phantom of the Opera [free] program ... Not rushing, taking my time [should mean] fewer mistakes on jumps, or stumbles."

Not surprisingly, two of Chan's falls this season -- including a rather spectacular crash into the boards of Quebec City's Pavillon de la Jeunesse after completing a combination -- have been on his most difficult element, the quad toe combination.

"We've worked not so much on the jump [itself] but what happens before, the preparation for the jump, getting the proper rocker or three-turn," he said. "It's been great the last two weeks."

The back-to-basics approach has left little time for him to work on a quad Salchow, something new rival Javier Fernandez has used to good effect this season. The Spaniard, who executes quad toe and Salchow in his free skate, came within 3.42 points of defeating the Canadian at Skate Canada this fall.

Although Chan and coach Christy Krall trained the jump last summer -- back in August, Krall called it a "handy thing for Patrick to have in is pocket" -- it's now been set aside.

"I left it on the backburner," Chan said. "I had to take a couple of steps back ... it really felt like I had to focus on learning the new free skate."

Instead, the skater plans to focus on adding a quad flip or Lutz to his arsenal after the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships in Nice, France, in March, citing those jumps' higher point values.

"If I'm going to spend the time on it, I think I should push the bar," he said.

"Lots of skaters do quad toes; [by the 2014 Sochi Olympics] the next level will be who is going to do the harder quads."

Chan welcomes the chance to compete in Nice against Evgeni Plushenko, Russia's three-time Olympic medalist (a gold and two silvers) who recently gained a special exemption to compete at the 2012 European Figure Skating Championships this month.

"I'm going to be excited," he said. "Evgeni is someone I've looked up to since I was young. [Plushenko is eight years Chan's senior.]

"To be on the same ice with him [for the first time] since the Vancouver Olympics would be very exciting. [Being that] I'm a new, rejuvenated kind of skater since the Olympics, it will be interesting to see what the judges will do."