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London calling: Reynolds' PCS a work in progress

Burnaby skater riding high after Four Continents win; Chan motoring to Detroit?

Kevin Reynolds knows he must bring up his components to match his technical wizardry.
Kevin Reynolds knows he must bring up his components to match his technical wizardry. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/12/2013) - After six seasons on the senior circuit, everything -- jumps, spins, expression -- worked for Kevin Reynolds in his free skate at the 2013 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

"It was a moment I'll never forget," said Joanne McLeod, who has coached the skater since he was 9. "It's been so hard -- all the pitfalls, tears and joys. Watching it all come together, for a coach, it's the moment, not the medal."

The 22-year-old Reynolds, who trains in Burnaby, British Columbia, has heard his critics load and clear. His quads are fine; his artistry is still playing catch up.

"When I first came to seniors, I had the jumps but not much else," he said after practice Monday afternoon. "Under the old system, the mentality was, 'Get the jumps, and then figure everything else out.' So for a number of years, it was hard work. Everything was hard.

"I'm still not fully there yet. Some of the men skating here -- like Patrick [Chan] -- it's hard to match their program component scores (PCS), but I'm going to work to get closer by the Olympics."

In his last two competitions, the two-time Canadian silver medalist inched closer to the goal. At the 2013 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, he executed three quads in his free skate to place 12.5 points behind Chan, a moral victory of sorts. At Four Continents, he under-rotated his quads in the short but landed three in his free to defeat Japan's top two skaters, Yuzuru Hanyu and Daisuke Takahashi, among others.

"Of course my confidence is increased, after solid performances at nationals and Four Continents," Reynolds said. "[Four Continents] was an unpredictable event. After being sixth after the short, I never thought I could win. I hoped to get the bronze. I was able to capitalize, when others missed."

Quads are Reynolds' calling card; to stay among the top, he must fully rotate his quad Salchow and toe. In practice, Reynolds said, they're usually always complete; in competition, the technical panel sometimes judges them short.

"We try to simulate competitions when I'm training; we do the six-minute warm-ups," he said. "[In competition] I get a little nervous, not [down] in my knees, and it causes cuffs in the landing. The blade wobbles. That's what happened to me in the short program at Four Continents.

"It gets a little unclear for callers, and you want to make it as clear as possible. ... Technically, callers have changed the sport. They dissect the elements frame by frame."

Reynolds, who plans three quads in his free skate in London, landed two in his short program at 2010 Skate Canada. Thus far, no one has duplicated the feat.

"I think Brian Joubert has tried it a few times," Reynolds said. "Doing two quads in the short, there is no time to breathe at all. It's all element to element. You have to train for that. It will be a year or two, I think, until skaters do it consistently." (Note: The Frenchman hit a quad toe combination at 2013 Challenge Cup in The Hague, Netherlands, last month but tripled an attempted quad Salchow.)

Here, Reynolds and McLeod are uncertain whether they will risk two quads in the short. Reynolds says it depends on how well he executes the first two jumps in the program.

"It's a decision we're going to make on the day, and there's nothing more to say," McLeod said. "Hey, that rhymes."

Just call Chan 'Mr. Detroit'

In practice Monday afternoon, Chan laid down a short program to Rachmaninoff's "Elegie in E Flat Minor" that would be tough to beat, a clean quad toe-triple toe and triple Axel included. His run-through of his La Boheme free skate Tuesday morning was just as stellar.

The two-time world champion told reporters in the mixed zone that what he's putting out here is exactly the way he's been practicing at the Detroit Skating Club (DSC).

"I'm on a good roll. I've got good momentum in practice," he said. "I've been doing one program a day, either my long or my short, but I still do sections of the other program."

Chan arrived in London on Monday afternoon, after driving in from DSC.

"I stepped out [on to the ice], and it was very natural, very comfortable," he said.

Chan's relaxed and happy attitude here is a far cry from his state of mind at 2012 Skate Canada in Windsor, Ontario, in late October, when he spoke of feeling intimidated and uncomfortable in practices and warm-ups.

"I was low on confidence, low on self-esteem," he said. "I know that sounds odd for a two-time world champion."

After placing second to Spaniard Javier Fernández in Windsor, he went on to win the Rostelecom Cup but placed third at the Grand Prix Final in Sochi behind Takahashi and Hanyu. After shaky performances at the 2013 Canadian Championships, where he won his sixth title, he spent time with his trainer, Andy O'Brien, in Vancouver and polished his programs with choreographers Jeff Buttle and David Wilson in Toronto.

Then, instead of returning to his home in Colorado Springs, Colo., it was on to Detroit, a comfortable drive from London.

"I needed a kick-start in my training life," he said. "I feel like I'm back to where I was at worlds in 2011. I'm stepping out there with confidence. I'm not hesitating; I'm going with the flow."

For much of that, Chan credits DSC, also home to his friends, Canadian ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje; singles skaters Jeremy Abbott, Alissa Czisny and Valentina Marchei; and a host of others.

"I definitely panicked at bit," he said of his early-season travails. "I couldn't find my stride. I felt like I was a step behind. It took so long figuring [it] out. I thought maybe I was just not mentally tough enough. It really puzzled me. ... People close to me suggested I move. I trusted them and took a leap of faith."

It didn't happen a moment too soon for Chan, who has a lot on the line in London.

"First, this is where we determine [which countries] get three spots for the Olympics," he said. "Number two, I want to defend my title. It means a lot to overcome a lot of the hardships I had earlier in the season. Number three, a good win could create momentum, energy, personal confidence going into the Olympics."

Chan still hasn't decided whether to make his move to DSC permanent, but he sounds more and more like a Motor City booster.

"I love Colorado; it's beautiful there," he said. "I have a house, a car, friends. I don't know if the environment at the rink is great. DSC is a good place and a good rink environment."

Reporter's notebook: While Fernández, Reynolds and a few others plan two different quads in their programs, Chan is sticking with his quad toe: "Maybe I was worried at first, [thinking] maybe I should do a different quad. I still might at some point; it's to be determined. I've worked on quad Salchow regularly, and it's in the back of my mind. ... On the other hand, other elements can fill in the blank spots. My footwork, spins, my overall program, makes up for it."