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Chan puts Japan Open behind him, regains focus

Two-time defending world champion suddenly feels like underdog

Canadian Patrick Chan finds himself in unfamiliar territory entering 2012 Skate Canada.
Canadian Patrick Chan finds himself in unfamiliar territory entering 2012 Skate Canada. (Getty Images)

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By Amy Rosewater, special to icenetwork.com
(10/22/2012) - Patrick Chan probably wanted to hide after falling four times and finishing last in his season debut at the Japan Open.

But now the two-time world champion said he is ready to come out from hiding.

Good thing, since his next competition, Skate Canada, is just around the corner, Oct. 26-28 in Windsor, Ontario.

Chan, who said he was training well leading up to the competition in Japan, admitted he was "unsure about his program" and "intimidated," adding that he "got into my turtle shell and hid from everyone."

But now back training at his home base in Colorado Springs, Colo., Chan looks back on the Japan Open as "the best thing that could have happened to me."

Chan, the 21-year-old originally from Ottawa, said he has had bad outings at the start of the season in the past. But usually they have come in smaller events, such as Golden West or Liberty, and they were not necessarily broadcast for much of the general public. But this time in Japan, and especially in this age of social media, the last-place showing became a reason for his fans on Twitter to become quite flustered.

Not only did Chan place last, but he mustered only 137.42 points. Daisuke Takahashi, who was second to Chan at the 2012 World Championships, was the winner with 172.06.

But Chan is doing his best to try to keep them (and himself) optimistic, saying that while he might not have felt comfortable with his programs prior to heading to Japan, he now feels as if something "clicked" since then. His short program is to music by Rachmaninoff and his free skate is from Puccini's La Bohème.

Typically, the early part of the season isn't a skater's best, as it's a time of adjusting to new music and new costumes, and of getting out in front of judges.

Chan, however, has had extra obstacles this year. Shortly after he claimed his second world title, his coach, Christy Krall, resigned. Kathy Johnson, a modern dance instructor who had been working with Chan on his programs in Colorado, became his head coach. Then Chan parted ways with his choreographer of four years, Lori Nichol, to work with Jeffrey Buttle (short program) and David Wilson (free skate). In addition, Chan takes a few lessons a week with Eddie Shipstad to help tweak the technical side of his skating.

When asked if not having a full-time jumping coach was a detriment, Chan replied, "I've been doing triples since I was 13," noting that a few lessons a week were enough to keep his jumps in check.

Chan doesn't attribute his problems to his off-ice changes but knows he needs pretty quick changes on the ice.

"The Japan Open kind of woke me up in a way and kind of slapped me into what I need to do to do well in the rest of the season," he said.

After Skate Canada, Chan will compete at the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow Nov. 9-11. His goal, of course, is to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, which will take place in Sochi, Russia, the host city of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Chan said he wants to be able to compete in Sochi so he can get his bearings in advance of the Games. He has never been to Sochi before, or, for that matter, anywhere near there.

The road he takes from now until the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships -- where he will attempt to become the first male skater since Alexei Yagudin (1998-2000) to capture three straight world titles -- will be one of the most watched in the sport.

For the last two years, Chan has been viewing the sport from the top. Now, at least at this moment, he has a different vantage point.

"I had two great seasons and I got the results I wanted," Chan said. "You become numb to it, to the feel of accomplishing something. I don't know. It's hard to explain. I just didn't really care.

"I loved my programs, the ones that Jeff and David did for the short and long program, but somehow I couldn't assimilate myself into my programs. I couldn't feel it. I couldn't feel accomplished after a run-through. I don't know why."

He said he hopes the "bugs are out of his system."

Chan said: "I just need to make sure this doesn't happen again."