Patrick Chan takes a significant lead after the short program in Saint John

SAINT JOHN, N.B. – It took only a tiny moment of doubt to turn a quadruple toe loop – triple toe loop into a triple-triple, good by the standards of some women’s competitions, but not for three-time world champion Patrick Chan.

Chan did only a triple toe loop – triple toe loop at the beginning of his short program, the Rachmaninoff gem that earned him world record points at the world championships last March. But still, the skater gathered himself and made sure he scored all the points he needed to throw up a healthy score of 88.10 seconds and finish first in the short program

Chan had some top Japanese skaters breathing down his neck, but when a revitalized Nobunari Oda fell on a quad, and Yuzuru Hanyu singled a triple Lutz that turned into a single Lutz-triple toe combination, the Japanese assault sputtered a bit.

Oda finished second with 80.82 points, saving himself by tacking a triple toe loop onto the end of a triple Lutz. Significantly enough, Oda’s technical score of 43.61 Chan’s by .44 points. Chan creamed him on program components, by almost seven points.

Hanyu sits in third with 80.40 points, only a fraction behind Oda.

Former U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott redeemed himself by landing quad in the short program, although he doubled a triple Lutz that was too close to the boards and put a hand down on a triple Axel. He is in fourth place with his routine choreographed by his childhood idol Robin Cousins, the 1980 Olympic champion.

“That was such a big hurdle to overcome on my step back,” Abbott said. “This shows I can be a contender with every man in the world.”  He scored 74.58 points.

The men’s event also provided a battle within a battle: the one for the third Canadian Olympic men’s spot. This time, Elladj Baldé took a major shot by landing the first quad of his career in a competition. And not only that, he tacked a double toe loop on the end of it, after putting a hand down on the quad. He planned a triple, but the hand scuttled that idea.

Baldé is in sixth place ahead of Andrei Rogozine who earned the trip to the world championships last year over Baldé. Rogozine decided to play it safe yesterday to regain confidence and skated cleanly – without a quad. Rogozine is currently in ninth place of 10 men with 68.31 points. His combo was a triple flip – triple toe loop, the only man in the event who did not try a quad.

“It’s a big plus for me,” said Baldé, who said he’s been helped by hard work and training alongside his new best buddy, Chan. They seem inseparable.

As for Chan, he said he landed his quad-triple perfectly in the warm-up, when he had no pressure on him. Even so, during the competition, doubt entered the mind of the mind of the three-time world champion and he hesitated, skated slowly into that first comb.

After that, Chan pulled up his socks, told himself to snap out of it, and rediscovered his rhythm. That’s all it took.

Beverley Smith

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