PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – It was the end of one era of Canadian skating and maybe, just maybe, the start of another.
Patrick Chan’s storybook career, punctuated with three consecutive world championships and a record ten Canadian titles, likely saw the final chapter written Saturday in PyeongChang with a ninth- place showing at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
When the dust had cleared on the quad-filled air show that was the men’s free program, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, who held off Chan for gold four years ago in Sochi, successfully defended his Olympic crown with 317.85 points. Hanyu’s countryman Shoma Uno finished 11 points back to win silver while Spain’s Javier Fernandez earned bronze.
Keegan Messing, making his Olympic debut just weeks after finishing second to Chan at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, was 12th.
American quad king Nathan Chen, who was lodged in 17th spot after a disastrous short program, nearly stole the show in the free, scoring 215.08 to vault into fifth with a 297.35 total.
After dominating the sport for most of his career, Chan, who went into the free skate 21 points behind Hanyu and 14 points off the podium, seemed at peace with himself heading into this season, and these Olympics. He has maintained all season that this final year was about enjoying this swan song, this moment, and not the medals and results.
“We’re seeing the transition now, the scale has tipped,” said Chan of the passing of the torch in men’s figure skating. “I’m so proud I was able to stick in it this long.
“I’m happy that I can leave these Games with a gold medal in the team event. Now I’m looking for gold medals in other things in my life.”
Last weekend, Chan earned his first Olympic gold as a member of Canada’s winning squad in the team event, bringing his career Olympic medal haul to a gold and two silvers.
There’s not much left for him to prove.
“Everything was very positive,” he said of the feeling going into the free program.
“I felt light. I had a little skip in my step. I wanted to be here, I wanted to step on that ice and do my long program. There was just a sense of excitement. Maybe that was knowing this is it.”
For Messing, who realized a lifelong dream of his own by making it to the Olympics, these Games were more of a learning experience.
“I am very pleased with my performance,” said Messing. “I was so excited to go out there and do what I’ve been training to do. I put down a solid performance, and I can leave the Olympics happy.”
Messing described his Olympic experience in a word.
“Wow,” he said.
As he was getting set to leave the interview area for the last time, Chan was asked what he thinks his legacy on the sport will be.
“I hope one day people will look back at my skating and what I’ve brought to the table and be like ‘Remember when Patrick skated like this or remember when skating was like this,” he said.
“That would be a cool legacy to leave behind.”
The ice dance competition now takes centre stage, with the short dance Sunday night at 8:00 pm ET. Canada will have three entries in the event, led by 2010 Olympic gold medallists and reigning world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.