Power up! Chan ready to take apart worlds field

When not building computers, defending world champ dominates competitions

Canadian Patrick Chan hopes to duplicate his impressive win at last year's world championships.
Canadian Patrick Chan hopes to duplicate his impressive win at last year's world championships. (Getty Images)


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By Amy Rosewater, special to
(03/21/2012) - Aside from figure skating, one of Patrick Chan's side interests is building computers. Spurred on to this hobby by a friend in Toronto, Chan will order all of the computer parts -- everything from the case to the power source -- and then constructs the computer down to each wire.

Once, after spending several hours working late in the night to build one -- much to the chagrin of his coach, Christy Krall, when he had a bad practice the next morning -- Chan finally had the nerve to boot it up. And it worked.

"At the end of the day, when you turn on the machine and it works, you feel like you really accomplished something," Chan said.

On the ice, Chan has shown he has built his skating into somewhat of a well-wired machine, too. And lately, when he turns that power switch on, he has been really on too. It seems as if his programs have been well programmed, and perhaps he's surpassed even some of his own calculations.

As the defending champion entering the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships in Nice, France, Chan's performances have been generating numbers that seem to match only the price of Apple's stock.

At the 2011 World Championships, the Canadian earned 280.98 points (93.02 in the short program and 187.96 for the free skate), making people wonder if he would break the 300-point barrier. At the 2012 Canadian Figure Skating Championships in January, Chan did just that, scoring 302.14 points en route to his fifth Canadian men's title. (Runner-up Kevin Reynolds, by the way, amassed 239.44 points.) Although the current judging system might not be as relatable as the old system with a perfect 6.0, Chan has been as close to perfect as this current system (with personal bests but no score of perfection) can get.

In the past year, the 21-year-old won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's best athlete, and he made the Guinness World Records.

Not only does he have the quad (in fact he landed two in his free skate at Canadian nationals and one in the short), but he also has a flair and elegance to his skating that make him a complete package. His skating was so strong that the crowd in Moncton, New Brunswick, was standing before his free skate music, Concierto de Aranjuez, ended.

Should he win a second world title in France, he would become the first male skater since Swiss skater Stephane Lambiel achieved that feat in 2005 and 2006. The last Canadian man to do so was Elvis Stojko, who won in 1994 and 1995 and came back to win it again in 1997.

"That's my biggest motivation," Chan said. "Of course, I'd love to defend my title and be a two-time champion. That would be so exciting to accomplish, I think even more so than the first championship."

What would make a second one even sweeter, Chan said, is that not only would he achieve a personal goal but also he said it would help put figure skating back on the map.

"I think that's what the audience has been looking for, is someone familiar, someone they can remember their name and how they skated and really see the improvement they make every year," Chan said. "Hopefully, winning another title, people will pay attention a little bit more to how difficult we skaters train."

Krall, a three-time U.S. medalist herself in the mid-1960s, acknowledges the strain Chan is under going into the world championships as the heavy favorite.

"It is not fun. I can't even imagine the burden when you're the lead man. The pressure is so great. Everybody's after you. You're the mark, and they all want to be you," Krall said. "But he's a fun-loving soul, and he understands that it's not so fun right now. Some of the practices he's had have not been the best lately. This is hard work and this is business, but he's a very resilient guy."

Chan's biggest competition at worlds will come from Japan's Daisuke Takahashi, France's Brian Joubert, Russia's Artur Gachinski, American Jeremy Abbott and Spain's Javier Fernandez.

Takahashi was fifth at worlds last year but an Olympic bronze medalist who finished runner-up to Chan last month at the Four Continents Championships. Joubert is the 2007 world champion but has been erratic, placing eighth at worlds in 2011 and eighth at Europeans this year. Gachinski is the latest Alexei Mishin protégé and was third at worlds last year and second at Europeans. Fernandez, meanwhile, of Spain, trains with Brian Orser and was sixth at Europeans. Abbott is a three-time American champion who missed a spot on the world team last year but produced two strong programs at the U.S. championships in January for a return trip.

But the spotlight will be on Chan, and he admitted that this journey to worlds will be tougher than last time.

"Emotionally, I find myself in a harder position this year, especially these past two weeks leading up to worlds," he said. "Last year I felt like I was a machine and every day I would do the same thing over and over again. I didn't even think twice about it. It was unique.

"This year's been a challenge. I've been in Colorado for a year now. Like with anything, the environment gets a bit stale after a while, so this is a big challenge for me because I have to stay motivated."

He will be leaving Colorado soon, stopping first in Toronto to have his longtime -- and only -- skate sharpener sharpen his skates before heading to Nice. He is not sure what he will do afterward. He likes to travel, and last year he went to Singapore after winning his world title to visit with family. This year, he might go back to Singapore and maybe add a stopover in Indonesia.

What he does not plan on doing is skating during his vacation, although during a conference call this week, a member of Skate Canada informed him that a new Olympic-sized rink is opening in Singapore soon.

"I like Singapore without the ice," he deadpanned.

Aside from traveling and enjoying his homemade computer, Chan said life is pretty good. And any extra money he earns these days will go to his savings account. He has no wish list or some big-ticket item he wants to purchase.

"I have pretty much all I want," Chan said. "I'm pretty happy."

But a second world title, something money cannot buy, would make him that much happier.