Joseph Phan is a natural. He is only 12 years old, but already he has this lovely glide around the ice, and edges to match. Is it any wonder that the skater he admires most is three-time world champion Patrick Chan? Could it be they are two peas in a pod? On Tuesday, Phan took the first step when he became the novice men’s champion of Canada.

OTTAWA: Joseph Phan is a natural. He is only 12 years old, but already he has this lovely glide around the ice, and edges to match. Is it any wonder that the skater he admires most is three-time world champion Patrick Chan? Could it be they are two peas in a pod? On Tuesday, Phan took the first step when he became the novice men’s champion of Canada.

He’ll move up to the junior level next year and he vows to learn all the triples when he does. On Tuesday, he put his two triples to good use, skating to Singing in the Rain.

Phan won with 119.84 points ahead of Edrian Paul Celestino with 115.60,. Third and taking the bronze medal was Josh Allen of Ottawa with 107.60.

Phan didn’t actually win the free skate but he had such a commanding lead (five points, eight ahead of Celestino) after the short program the previous day, that he held onto a safe win.

Celestino, 15, of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que., had no expectations or reference points when he came to the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships because he had never been to a nationals, not at any level. He intended to compete last year as a pre-novice, but he sprained his ankle at sectionals and didn’t compete.

Celestino won the free skate with 81.33  points while Phan was second with 77.44. Celestino had been seventh in the short program.

Last year when Phan came to train with Yvan Desjardines, he had no triple toe loop, so they worked on that and also on his skating quality, to maximize grade of execution points. The goal for next summer is to work on a triple loop and a triple Lutz, Desjardins said. And why not a triple-triple combo? That will be in the works, too.

Best of all, Phan has a wonderful skating ability, from a young age. “He has this ease,” Desjardins said. “He is really smooth. He has a nice flow. He doesn’t really know he has this ability. He just likes to do that. He is a natural.”

Later on, this ability will help him in the code of points judging system as he moves up the ladder.

Phan said his parents had him try a wide variety of different sports – soccer, tennis, swimming and gymnastics – but he didn’t really like any of them. Figure skating fit the bill. He started skating when he was five years old.

He admitted he was nervous on Tuesday, skating in the big rink, the Canadian Tire Centre, after skating in a smaller rink for the short program, usually used for practice. “But I’m getting used to it for next year,” he said.

Celestino dealt with the nerves his own way. “Just before I started the long program, I took a moment and just blocked everything out,” he said. “I skated the program like a robot.”

“This has been a completely different experience,” Celestino said. “But for this one, I felt relaxed. Usually I stress about my program. But this time I didn’t feel that.”

But his silver medal feels like a win overall, because he wasn’t expecting to win the free skate. “I expected second or third,” he said.

Beverley Smith