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Chan, Virtue, Moir win Ontario Sports Awards

OTTAWA, ON: Last night in a ceremony in Toronto, Ont., Patrick Chan, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were honoured by the Ontario Government for their success in sport.

Each year the province recognizes athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and sponsors for their outstanding performances in both national and international arenas.

Patrick Chan, 23, Toronto, Ont., won the Male Athlete of the Year Award. This award is presented annually by the Province of Ontario to Ontario’s premiere amateur male athlete who has achieved extraordinary success competing provincially, nationally or internationally, as part of a team or individually. In 2013 Patrick Chan, won his third world title and followed that win up with two silver medals at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Tessa Virtue, 24, London, Ont., and Scott Moir, 26, Ilderton, Ont., won the Team of the Year Award. This award is presented to an outstanding amateur sports team in which two or more people competed simultaneously as a single entity. Virtue and Moir won their sixth Canadian title and went on to capture two silver medals at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Gabrielle Daleman, 16, Newmarket, Ont., was also honoured at the gala. Daleman was a nominee in the Female Athlete of the Year Award. The award was won by judo athlete Jessica Klimkait.

Skate Canada volunteer William (Bill) Boland was presented with the Syl Apps Volunteer Achievement Award. This award recognizes volunteers, nominated by Provincial Sport Organizations who have made an outstanding contribution to the establishment and/or ongoing development of groups, clubs, facilities, projects and/or special programs in the Province of Ontario.

Skate Ontario sponsor JB Video Productions was presented with a Corporate Sport Citation. This award is presented to corporations that have been a leader in supporting sport through sustained corporate involvement over several years

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees!

Patrick Chan wins his second silver medal of the Sochi Olympics

Patrick Chan will go home with two silver medals, one from today’s men’s competition and one from the team event. “But I kind of wish it was a different colour,” Chan said.

So much pressure. So much to do, at each step in a men’s Olympic program nowadays.

Yuzuru Hanyu is the new Olympic champion, all of 19 years old, the youngest in 66 years, but it didn’t look that way after he skated and made several uncharacteristic mistakes. He had swung the door wide open for Chan, who skated directly after him. All Chan had to do was walk through it.

But pressure fell on Chan’s shoulders just as much as on Hanyu’s and every other skater who faced the bright lights of the Iceberg Palace. Few of them found perfection. Chan delivered his patented and lofty quad toe – triple toe combo, then put a hand down on a quad toe. He staggered out of a triple Axel and put both hands down on the ice, doubled a Salchow that was the final element in a jump sequence, and even stumbled out of a double Axel at the end of his Four Seasons routine.

“We’re all human,” Chan said. “Even Shawn White makes mistakes. Unfortunately, I made one too many.”

Chan finished second in the free skate with 178.10 points, just .54 less than Hanyu. And he had four points to make up from the short program, so he finished second with 275.62 points. Hanyu won with 280.09.

Hanyu’s Toronto training mate, Javier Fernandez of Spain, lost a bronze medal when he inserted a triple Salchow late in his routine, and got no points for it. Even though he didn’t do it in combination, he’d done one singly before that, and so judges counted it as a combination. But he had already done three combos and the limit is three. So Fernandez got no points for the element, which is worth 4.62 points. He lost the bronze medal by 1.18 points to Denis Ten of Kazakhstan, who had disappeared for most of the season as he recovered from very serious infections, stemming from boot problems.

Ten won the bronze medal with 255.10 points, with Fernandez fourth. Tatsuki Machida of Japan actually finished slightly ahead of Fernandez in the long program, but ended up fifth overall. Daisuke Takahashi was sixth, buoyed by his high (and well deserved) component marks.

Kevin Reynolds found redemption in the free skate, which was far from perfect (he under-rotated two of his three quads), but decent all the same, after a tough season trying to figure out boot problems. He was 15th overall with 222.23 points.

“Tonight was a little bit of redemption,” Reynolds said. “I managed to stay on my feet.”

“It’s so difficult to come back from such a disappointing performance the day before. Practice this morning was one of the hardest practices of my life. I knew that my medal chances were gone. I didn’t sleep much last night, but I fought through it and that’s all I could do.”

Ten also didn’t sleep well, after struggling to a ninth-place finish in the short program. “I felt much better than yesterday,” he said. “Yesterday I felt slow. Today I was energized.” He blasted his previous season’s best by about 20 points in the free.

Hanyu fell on his opening quad Salchow, and then he stumbled out of a triple flip. He missed a triple Salchow that was part of a jump sequence. He seemed scattered and slower than usual. It was a hard fight.

In winning, Hanyu brought glory to coach Brian Orser, one of those Canadians who had failed to win an Olympic gold medal in 1988. But as a coach, Orser, working from his base in Toronto, has trained two consecutive Olympic champions now. His first student, Yu-Na Kim, won Olympic gold in Vancouver four years ago.

Chan said although disappointed, he’s proud of the way he handled the intense pressure all week. “I don’t know if I could have handled the pressure [a year ago] and skated this way,” he told a reporter. He was proud that he didn’t go insane. He fell 4.47 points short of gold and it will be “a lingering thought,” he said.

“I gave it my all, I swear,” he said. “I was close.”

Bobsledder Kaillie Humphries was watching and tweeted: “You inspire us all.” Well wishes flooded Chan’s twitter account.

Other interesting moments: Jeremy Abbott actually out finished Jason Brown in the free skate, after he ditched a quad attempt and skated for himself. He ended up eighth in the long program, while Brown made mistakes and finished 11th. Abbott earned higher technical marks than Fernandez.

Takahashi, skating at his last Olympics, and trying to overcome a knee problem, finished fifth overall after landing his quad on two feet, although it was one of his better attempts of the event. But he didn’t waste a note in his beautiful style and actually had the second highest component score of the long program, topped only by Chan. Takahashi edged Hanyu by .02 points in performance marks. There were no perfect 10s to be had by anybody.

Beverley Smith

Chan: ‘I’m ready. I think it’s time’

The last thing Patrick Chan needs right now is a history lesson.

The three-time world champion knows the math. He need not be reminded that no Canadian – most notably the seven men’s world champions to come out of this country – has ever captured a men’s figure skating gold medal at the Olympic Games.

A nation is turning to its 23-year-old champion to change that history.

In Vancouver four years ago, at just 19 years of age, Chan admits he put too much pressure on himself to try to get to the podium in an Olympics on his home soil. Instead, he struggled to harness his emotions, finishing fifth, a result he has referred to as “disappointing” ever since.

This time around, despite the three consecutive world championships in his back pocket, Chan isn’t putting the weight of the country on his shoulders.

“Vancouver was a lot of pressure,” Chan admits. “I was young, I was 19 and I was like ‘Yeah, I’m going to win a medal and how cool is it going to be to stand on a podium in Canada?’”

“In four years, you can learn a lot. I’ve won three world titles in that time. I’m a much different person now, on and off the ice.”

Pressure or not, Chan knows the eyes of Canada will be on him when the curtain lifts on the men’s short program in Sochi Thursday.  The earlier team event – where Canada won silver – may turn out to be blessing in disguise for Chan, who struggled to an unlikely third-place finish in the men’s short, placing behind current nemesis Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Russian legend Evgeni Plushenko. Chan admits it wasn’t the skate he wanted, but says the team event gave him a chance to go through a program at the Olympics, to settle the nerves and get his proverbial feet under him.

Call it a dress rehearsal of sorts.

On Thursday, it’s showtime.

“After getting the silver medal it’s really a lot of pressure off me,” Chan says of the team event.

“It’s cool to finally have a medal in your hand and say that it’s your own,” he told a press conference earlier this week. “I didn’t have that chance in Vancouver.”

While most of Canada will be holding its breath watching Chan attempt to chase history, don’t count out Kevin Reynolds, who laid down a sterling performance in the men’s free program at the team competition. Coming off a fifth-place showing at the world championships in London, Ont. 11 months ago, if the door to the podium opens even slightly, Reynolds could walk right in and grab a medal.

After spending most of the year away from competition dealing with boot issues, Reynolds rolled out his rocking, AC/DC-driven short program at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships last month.

On Thursday, Reynolds will showcase the program to the rest of the world. If those two-plus minutes don’t get your feet tapping, you may want to check your pulse.

Liam Firus, another B.C. native, will also be competing in his first Olympic Games.

In the months leading up to these Games – in fact, since he claimed his first world title in 2011 – talk has revolved around Chan being that guy to finally break the Canadian Olympic hex. Chan is well aware of the chatter, having lived it for the past four years, but he is trying hard not focus on names like Browning, Stojko, Orser or Buttle.

No, instead, Chan has his sights set on the likes of Yuzuru Hanyu, Javier Fernandez, Daisuke Takahashi and yes, Plushenko, just a few of the imposing obstacles that stand in the way of his quest for gold.

“What I’ve been working on the last two or three weeks leading up to these Games is not busying myself thinking, ‘Am I training as hard as the other skaters? Am I a better skater? Are my quads better than Yuzuru’s or Daisuke’s, or whoever?’”

“It’s been a constant battle, like the devil on my shoulder and the angel on my other side. It’s a constant battle between positive and negative thoughts, thinking ‘am I going to beat them even if I’m at my best?’”

This Olympic crown is what Chan often refers to as his “Holy Grail”. It is the only thing missing from his sparkling resume.  No matter what happens over these next couple of days, Chan knows the sun will come up the day after – in Sochi and in Canada.  Gold or not, what happens in Sochi will not define his legacy.

“If I win or not here, people will go on with their lives,” he says. “I will go on with my life.”

It’s all about the pressure, and Chan is determined not to put too much on himself. He knows what is at stake.  After four long years, Chan’s Holy Grail is once again within reach.

“I’m ready,” he said before leaving for Sochi.

“I think it’s time.”

Marty Henwood

Patrick Chan sits in second place going into Friday’s free program in Sochi

It was as expected in the men’s short program: Patrick Chan and Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan have locked horns and left the rest of the field scrambling to catch up. With 11 points for them to make up, it’s a tough task.

The Toronto-trained Hanyu was spectacular and relaxed to set a world record of 101.45 points in the short and he’s now the first man to crack the 100 threshold in the short program.

Chan made a bobble on his nemesis jump, the triple Axel, and finished with 97.52, still only about four points off Hanyu’s pace.

Behind Hanyu, Chan, nine men are within 3 ½ points of each other in an intense battle for the bronze medal, starting with two-time European champion Javier Fernandez of Spain in third with 86.98 points and stretching down to Japanese skater Tatsuki Machida in 11th with 83.48 points.

Canadian silver medalist Kevin Reynolds saw his quad Salchow slip away from him and then his triple Axel (both under-rotated) and is currently in 17th place. He’d hoped for more, after finishing fifth at the world championships last March, but boot problems all season have made preparation difficult.

Liam Firus finished 28th after missing his triple Axel and failed to make the cut for the long program. Only the top 24 advance. “I couldn’t get comfortable,” Firus said. “I was just nervous and had jittery legs.” He’d never been to a world championship and had only one Grand Prix event.

But the big shocker of the day was the withdrawal of 2006 Olympic champion Evgeny Plushenko, who had helped Russia win gold in the team event. He had already been complaining of his back pinching him when he doubled a couple of jumps in the team long program.

But on Wednesday, during practice, Plushenko fell on a quad toe and immediately felt a problem in his back. He practiced the morning of the short program, but did no jumps at all. He said he couldn’t. “I skated maybe seven minutes maximum,” he said. “I tried and tried and tried today.”

In the warm-up before the short program, Plushenko did a triple loop and a triple Lutz, but when he stepped out of his first triple Axel attempt, he felt “terrible pain” in his leg. The second one, his body twisted and he had a terrible landing on it. “I couldn’t feel my legs after it. It hurt and that was it. I had to withdraw.”

He admitted he almost cried. The audience went silent after he left the ice. “It’s hard, believe me,” Plushenko said. “This is not how I wanted to end my career.”

Fernandez said he wasn’t surprised by Plushenko’s withdrawal because he had been complaining about his back after the team event. He thought it was too much for him to skate two more programs.

“If I was Plushenko, I would have given my place to another person if I wasn’t 100 per cent. But Plushenko is Plushenko, and he can decide what he can and can’t do.”

Plushenko’s coach Alexei Mishin said that the morning after the free skate of the team event, the Russian skating federation should have made a change, but Plushenko seemed fine after that. “We didn’t do anything that wasn’t fair play.” With Plushenko at out this point, Russia fielded no men’s skater at all.

Hanyu, who started skating because of Plushenko, said he wasn’t even aware of the withdrawal until he went to skate and saw the Plushenko’s name wasn’t on the leaderboard. He was disappointed.

So was Chan, who wished him a quick recovery.

Without Plushenko in the rink, the moments belonged to the top two skaters. Hanyu said he was “over the moon” to break 100 points and even surprised by the score.  “I took it one element at a time,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to clear 100 points. I was just trying to turn in the best performance I possibly could – and I did.”

He didn’t show it, but admitted he was nervous and his legs were shaking. “I was certainly feeling the atmosphere of the Olympics out there,” he said.

Coach Brian Orser told him he was proud of Hanyu. That warmed Hanyu’s heart.

Chan said he didn’t care if he was in second. “It was nice to see a 97 after an 89 in the team event,” he said. “I had a bumble on the Axel, so I am happy with 97.” Chan slightly outscored Hanyu on the components mark: by only .57 points.

He was surprised by Hanyu’s lofty score. “I’m going to pace myself,” Chan said. “I have a plan.”

And he feels he’s in a good spot. He likes being in second place. “I like the chase,” Chan said. “I can enjoy the Olympics during the free skate, while Hanyu has a target on his back. At the Olympics, the target is bigger.”

He said he’s made up four points before in a long program and has “quite an arsenal” to rely on. He said his triple Axel is getting more confident, and bigger. “I got a bit more height and I over rotated on the landing,” he said. “It was a challenge, though, to be honest, doing the short program.”

Chan’s lofty quad toe-triple toe earned him 16.40 points. He supplied one of 19 quads attempted in the event – well 18 with the withdrawal of Plushenko. Only seven completed them, eight if you count Fernandez turning out of his quad Salchow. Those who did were: Hanyu, Chan (in combination), Peter Liebers of Germany, who skated the performance of his life (quad combo), Brian Joubert (quad combo), Alexander Majorov, Machida (quad comb), and Reynolds (quad combo). None of them matched Chan’s mark, although Liebers was closest with 15.69 points.

Reynolds said sadly after the event: “It was a disaster out there. I was coming off such a high after the team event and I felt ready and confident this morning. I lost it on the first jump and it just snowballed from there.”

Among other contenders: Daisuke Takahashi sits in fourth after under-rotating and two footing his quad; Liebers gets fifth, Jason Brown of the United States thrilled the crowd with no quad and is in sixth place: Joubert finally got his first good Olympic skate in four Games to be seventh; the promising 17-year-old Chinese skater Han Yan is eighth, and Denis Ten is ninth after stumbling out of his quad. Machida doubled his Lutz and is 11th.

Shortly after Plushenko withdrew, U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott, a training mate of Chan, fell forward on a quad attempt, drove his hip into the ice and crashed into the boards. He lay there for 15 seconds, and just as everyone thought he was finished, Abbott rolled to his feet and landed a triple Lutz – triple toe loop in the opposite corner. It was a comeback for the ages. Abbott is in 15th place with 72.58 points.

Beverley Smith

Olympian Profile: Patrick Chan

Patrick Chan wears a heavy mantle on his shoulders heading to the Sochi Olympic Games.

He’s going into the event as a three-time world champion – a difficult feat in this era of the Code of Points judging system. He sets and resets world scoring records. And Canada has never won Olympic gold in the men’s figure skating event, despite its storied history with skaters such as Donald Jackson, Toller Cranston, Brian Orser, Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko and Jeff Buttle.

Chan’s path to Sochi hasn’t always been smooth. Since he finished fifth at the Vancouver Olympics, a fledging who had been overcoming an injury, he quickly learned a consistent quad, and dominated competition, until his peers began to find ways to catch up. But there is no denying his power. He has a rare skill set.

“He’s unlike any other skater,” says Buttle, who choreographed his current, record-setting Olympic short program.

“His skate-ability is the best, bar none,” says current choreographer David Wilson, who has designed his epic Olympic free skate to the “Four Seasons.”

Chan currently holds two world scoring records, mainly from his brilliant win at the Trophy Eric Bompard in France last fall.  He regained his world record of 98.52 in the short program from Yuzuru Hanyu during that magical effort in France, until Hanyu took it back at the Grand Prix Final, where he defeated Chan.

But Chan’s marks for the free skate (196.75) and for total score (295.27) from France still stand. He did chalk up a score of 302.14 points (winning by 62.70 points over runner-up Kevin Reynolds) at a past Canadian championship, but of course, national scores don’t count. Hanyu earned 297.80 points for his win at the Japanese championships in December, 2013.

Born in Ottawa on New Year’s Eve of 1990 to Chinese immigrants Karen and Lewis Chan, Chan really wanted to play hockey, but ended up in the CanSkate program. He was already a going concern as a tiny 10-year-old when he finished third at the national juvenile championships under gravel-voiced coach Osborne Colson, who even then, knew he had a special skater. From there, Chan went from victory to victory in Canada, winning pre-novice, novice, and junior championships. His win at the 2014 Canadian championships in Ottawa was his seventh national senior title.

Chan is a skaters’ skater, with skills honed by Colson, who demanded the young boy spend half an hour each day on basic stroking. He’s left a legacy with Chan, probably the most powerful skater on the continent, able to gain top speed with a few strokes, seemingly effortlessly. Choreographer Lori Nichol also moulded Chan into her vision of what she thought a male skater should be: with feet as intricate as those of an ice dancer. Nichol, who took Chan from a young teenager to a world star, says she could give him a simple step, but add his speed and depth of curve and the lean he gets on his blade, and suddenly the step isn’t so easy. He rarely uses simple crossovers to gain speed. There are hops and turns and unexpected changes of direction in his routine. His feet are never still. It takes incredible conditioning to maintain that effort over the four minutes, 40 seconds of the long program. Because of it, Chan has had to carefully find a rhythm, a pace throughout it.

To every student she teaches, Nichol shows videos of 1976 Olympic champion John Curry, with whom she used to skate professionally. Curry, she said, was “a true master of refinement and quality.” Chan is a more powerful skater than Curry was, but she says now that Chan has mastered his power, “a gentler refinement can come into play,” she says.

Now that Chan is 24, he’s taken responsibility for his work, his training, his music choices, his nutrition and his off-ice time. He won last season, without having the right tools, he notes. “But this season, I’m in a very different place,” he says. He’s in a much happier place, training in Detroit, surrounded by friends such as Canadian teammate Elladj Baldé and American skater Jeremy Abott. It could make all the difference.

He hasn’t added any more quads this year, staying with the quad toe loop, solely and in combination with a triple toe loop. “I believe I have all the elements I need,” he said. His biggest challenge will be triple Axels, and the mental aspect, conquering doubts. He’s trained diligently all last summer, instilling the muscle memory and the pacing into his programs. He didn’t tour.

Chan wants to put himself into the same mindset as Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, considered one of the best pitchers of his generation, who, after he won a game against the Boston Red Sox during the World Series, was asked when he knew he was going to win. “The minute I stepped on the mound,” he said.

“I noticed that when I won my first world championships, when I stepped on the ice, I knew I was going to win,” Chan said. “There was no question. There was no doubt. There was no worry.” Everything he has done this season, win or not, has been a step to Sochi, working through the things he needs to nail.

Everyone around him sees it. Chan says Baldé has helped him tremendously. “He’s training better than ever in his life,” Baldé says. “I’ve personally never seen him skate the way he is right now. And that’s kinda scary, because he’s already three-time world champion. He’s going on the road where he’s going to be one of the greats.”

Want to read more about the figure skaters who will compete at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi? Pick up Beverley Smith’s new book SKATING TO SOCHI! The book profiles the top 40 athletes/teams with full-colour photos! Order online: Amazon.com, Lulu.com (ebook) or iTunes (ebook).

Beverley Smith

Patrick Chan atop the Canadian podium once again

Perhaps it wasn’t so perfect, but it was perfect enough.

Patrick Chan won his seventh Canadian championship title with a goodly performance, a step-up from his short program where his mind wandered and played tricks on him.

This time, he had it mostly under control in a season that has been his most consistent on record. The crowd roared loudly when he landed his opening quad-triple, raking in 17.07 points for it. Then he mustered only a double toe loop in place of his second quad, and his hand flailed downward to the ice on a triple loop, but otherwise, the three-time world champion had his thoughts under control, thinking element by element. He got a standing ovation for his efforts and won the free with 188.30 points and the overall title with 277.42.

Kevin Reynolds’ battle was far tougher. He had to overcome boot issues that had scuttled his entire season, making this Olympic trial his first and only competition before Sochi. For a few fleeting moments, Reynolds Olympic bid looked vulnerable, when he landed his opening quadruple Salchow on two feet, and then fell on a triple Axel.

But Reynolds fought back, landed two quad toe loops, one in combination with a triple toe loop – double loop, and later, a triple flip – triple loop really sang.

He finished the free in third place with 164.16 points, six points behind Chan – although it was only a year ago that Reynolds had defeated Chan on the technical mark.

Still, Reynolds’ 242.45 total score was good for a silver medal.

“It was a fight the whole way through,” said Reynolds, who finished fifth at the world championships last March. “Nothing was comfortable out there. I’m just glad I was able to get this competition under my belt. I definitely needed this going into Sochi.”

Reynolds said the past two weeks have been very nervewracking, thinking his Olympic bid might be sunk by a pair of ill-fitting boots. Nine pairs of them, actually since the world championship. “Nothing had been going well in training,” he said. “To be able to do this even though it was far from perfect, I’m very satisfied with this week.”

Reynolds said in the next three weeks, he’ll just have to buckle down and ignore whatever is bothering him and push as hard as he can. “This does give me confidence that I can improve things and do a respectable performance even if things aren’t feeling great,” he said.

He said he would have been happy with the top three. He just wanted to get a spot to Sochi.

Strangely enough, Liam Firus, a 21-year-old who had been fifth at the Canadian championships, when he had landed his first triple Axel in competition, defeated Reynolds in the free skate, even though he fell on his triple Axel attempt. Reynolds still defeated Firus technically, but Firus earned top marks for his presentation, getting an array of impressive marks as high as 9.25 out of 10 for his lovely run on the blade.

Injury problems set back Firus’s season drastically, but he never doubted the Olympic dream. “I thought: ‘You know what? You’re going to be on the Olympic team,” he told himself not so long ago. “You’re going to work as hard as you can. It’s going to be tough. Nothing is going to be easy. This is my goal. I told myself I was going to be here. And I was.”

Firus pushed through to the end and ensured he had the best chance possible. During a long wait after Reynolds skated, Firus skated around with his headphones on while on the ice – a novel sight at a skating competition. He said he was listening to his favourite music: electric dance music, to get into his zone.

When Reynolds marks were announced, he covered his ears. “I shut it out,” he said. “I knew he was in first place, but I didn’t need to hear what his score was.”

In short, Firus’ plan worked splendidly.

Beverley Smith

Patrick Chan on track for 7th Canadian title in Ottawa

Patrick Chan is still looking for the missing pieces of the puzzle he’s trying to put together to become an Olympic champion.

He found a few were missing on Friday at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships when he doubled a triple Axel and a Lutz.

He wanted the short program to be perfect and when he started off on Friday night with an absolutely powerful quad toe loop–triple toe loop combo that netted him plus threes across the board (earning 17.40 points alone for that first move), he let go of his plan.  He began to think ahead of himself, pleased that this could perhaps be the perfect short he was hoping for before the Olympics. “I kind of relaxed because I thought it was over,’ he admitted.

The program, “Elegie in E Flat Minor” had conquered Chan at the Grand Prix Final when Japanese champ Yuzuru Hanyu defeated Chan by a large margin and Chan was not able to make up much ground on him in the long.

“I had a rocky Grand Prix Final and …I think that’s the source of all this,” Chan said.

Chan said he was startled at the marks he received at the Final and the mistakes he made in the short and found it “hard to go back home and have that long of a time to think about it [before the Canadian championships].”

He realizes he needs to take one element at a time – which is what he did when he won the Bompard Trophy in Paris so brilliantly.

“I’m still learning at this point,” he said. “There’s this last missing piece that I need to slot in before the Olympics.”

Still, he won with 89.12 points with his Jeff-Buttle choreographed routine that had produced a couple of world records.

That’s about 10 points ahead of Liam Firus, fifth last year at the Canadian championships. Even Firus was taken aback by finishing second, after having an injury-plagued season, and taking a hard fall on his triple Axel in the short program.

Kevin Reynolds, fifth at the world championships last March, is in third place with 78.29 points, only .64 behind Firus. But he had troubles from the start. After a few seconds into his routine to AC/DC, the music stopped.

It was just a little too much to bear for Reynolds, who had missed all of his international competitions and everything else because of boot problems that have plagued him all season. “I really had to focus and get back into my space,” he said afterward.

He fell on his opening quad Salchow, and then had the presence of mind to squeak a double toe loop onto the end of his quad toe loop, allowing him a combination worth 10.27 points.

Among the other competitors trying to get those Olympic spots: Elladj Balde, also competing on the same old boot-new boot combination that he used at Skate Canada International. He was pleased to land a quad with a hand down and finish fourth and last year’s bronze medalist Andrei Rogozine is fifth.

However, the skater who got the loudest standing ovation among the men was 14-year-old Roman Sadovsky, who delighted the large crowd with his flair and his spins and performance to finish eighth at 68.59 points. It was the largest crowd he had ever faced having been only to a few junior grand prix events.

“It was different,” he said. I’m so used to performing basically to a wall.”

Beverley Smith

Chan wins silver medal at Grand Prix Final

FUKUOKA, Japan – World champion Patrick Chan of Toronto won the silver medal on Friday in men’s singles at the ISU Grand Prix Final figure skating competition.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan took the gold with 293.25 points, Chan followed at 280.08 and Nobunari Oda of Japan was third at 255.96.

“I faced a good challenge today trying to come back from a disappointing short program,” said Chan. “Even though I didn’t win the competition I felt like I accomplished a lot and gained a valuable experience. It was a great long program.”

Despite heading into the competition with two wins on the Grand Prix circuit this season including a world record score last month in Paris, Chan said he felt some doubts for Friday’s long program.

“I don’t have the best track record in Japan,” he said. “Every time I come back here I re- live the moments I didn’t skate my best. So to come in a do a strong long today and get back to what I did in Paris and Skate Canada is really going to help me.”

Canada is in contention for more medals in ice dancing and pairs.

In ice dancing, Olympic champions Tessa Virtue of London, Ont., and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont., are second after the short dance only 0.7 points behind world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White. The Americans earned 77.66 and Virtue and Moir 77.59.

“Overall it was strong,” said Virtue. “Technically we got all the points we wanted which was our objective. We just have to go out and perform the same way in the free dance.”

Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Russia stand third at 68.90 just ahead of Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., at 67.68.

“We captured the essence of the program,” said Poje. “We didn’t lose that uniqueness. We wanted to utilize the taps and the back and forth between the two of us.”

In pairs, Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., totalled 73.07 and are fourth less than three points behind third spot. Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto are sixth.

“This is the type of skate we’ve been waiting for,” said Radford. “After some rough short programs this season, this one gives us a lot of confidence.”

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch also came off the ice satisfied.

“We can’t do much better than a clean short,” said Moore-Towers. “The best part was our energy. We felt comfortable and at home out there. It was fun and when we get to feel it that way, it’s enjoyable.”

The top-three are Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia in first, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany in second and Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China in third.

The free dance and pairs free skate are on Saturday.

The final competitive event for Chan before the Olympic Winter Games will be the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships. That event takes place at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, January 9-12, 2014.

Louis Daignault

Patrick Chan second after short program at Grand Prix Final

FUKUOKA, Japan – World champion Patrick Chan of Toronto stands second in men’s singles after Thursday’s short program at the ISU Grand Prix Final figure skating competition.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan earned a world record 99.84 points to grab the lead with Chan second at 87.47 and Nobunari Oda of Japan third at 80.94.

Chan hit his opening quad toe-loop, triple toe-loop combination but touched the ice landing his triple Axel and doubled a planned triple Lutz to finish with 87.47.  The 22-year-old won gold at his two Grand Prix events this season.

‘’I’m a little upset about today,’’ said Chan. ‘’It’s a little unfortunate to not skate the way you wanted.  I have to remember to take one step at a time as I did earlier this season and produce an equal effort throughout the program.’’

After landing the quad-triple combo with remarkable ease, Chan ran into difficulties on two essential jumps.

‘’I felt really good after the quad-triple but I went into the Axel slower than normal,’’ said Chan.  ‘’The Lutz was the weirdest thing.  I saw the overhead camera and that might have been a bit of a distraction.  That was unusual and it’s something you learn along the way.’’

Hanyu opened with a quad toe-loop and hit all his other jumps to the delight of a sellout crowd at Marine Messe. His 99.84 points surpassed the previous high of 98.52 by Chan at the Trophee Bompard in Paris last month.

The men’s free skate is on Friday.

Canada’s four other entries are also in action Friday for their short programs.  They are Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., as well as Kirsten Moore-Towers of St.Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto in pairs.  The ice dance entries are Tessa Virtue of London, Ont., and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont., along with Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont.

The Grand Prix Final is the reserved for the top-six finishers overall in each event following the six-stops on the circuit this season.

Louis Daignault

Patrick Chan wins gold, set world records at ISU Grand Prix

PARIS – World champion Patrick Chan capped a super weekend for Canadian figure skaters on Saturday with a gold medal and world record performances in men’s singles at the Eric-Bompard Trophy ISU Grand Prix figure skating competition.

Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir added ice dance gold and Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., took silver in pairs.

Chan totalled 295.27 points to smash his previous world mark of 280.98 points set at the 2011 world championships in Moscow. He also bettered his free program world record score from Moscow to 196.75 from the 187.96. Friday’s short program total was also a world’s best.

‘’This is a special day,’’ said Chan. ‘’It’s the first time in a long time I`ve skated two strong programs at one competition. I felt in control of every moment and each element. I`m going to remember how I approached both programs.

The 22-year-old from Toronto nailed his opening quad toeloop-triple toeloop, his quad toeloop and his triple axel jumps. The French crowd gave him a rousing ovation for his performance which included music from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

‘’I know exactly why the way I skated. I paced myself properly to get through the whole program and through all the elements. That’s where I improved.’’

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan was second at 263.59 and Jason Brown of the U.S., third at 243.09.

In ice dancing, Virtue and Moir were the victors with 180.96 ranking first in both the short dance and free dance. Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia were second at 171.89 and Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France third at 171.08.

‘’We felt like it was a strong skate,’’ said Moir. ‘’There were some great moments and it was a better skate than at Skate Canada especially the ending.  Still we left some points out there. Technically we can’t afford to do those little mistakes.’’

Nicole Orford of Burnaby, B.C., and Thomas Williams of Okotoks, Alta., were eighth.

In pairs, Olympic silver medallists Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China won the gold with 193.86 points edging Duhamel and Radford in second at 190.89. Caydee Denney and John Coughlin of the U.S., were third at 184.01.

The result also puts Duhamel and Radford in good position to make the Grand Prix Final.

“I was proud of that performance,” said Radford. “There’s a lot of pressure. It’s an Olympic season and we wanted to make the Grand Prix Final to keep our name out there heading into the second half of the season. That’s what was on the line today.”

After a wobbly Skate Canada three weeks ago, Duhamel said the couple put pressure on themselves to execute clean programs every day in training. The preparation eventually paid off even though they didn’t produced a clean skate Saturday.

“We weren’t able to deliver the program that we’ve been doing in training but we fought,” said Duhamel. “We knew we needed to come here and get at least second to advance to the Grand Prix Final. There was a lot of pressure and nothing was easy..”

Natasha Purich of Sherwood Park, Alta., and Mervin Tran of Regina were sixth.

In women’s competition, Amélie Lacoste of Delson, Que., was sixth.

Big scores for Chan, Virtue/Moir at ISU Grand Prix

PARIS – World champion Patrick Chan of Toronto broke his world record score in Friday’s short program to stand first in men’s competition at the Trophee Eric Bompard ISU Grand Prix figure skating competition.

Later on, Olympic champions Tessa Virtue of London, Ont., and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont., posted a personal best score for their short dance to grab an early lead as well.

Chan totalled 98.52 points which bettered his previous world best of 98.37 set at the world championships last March. He also improved his score by more than 10 points from last month’s Skate Canada.  The main difference was successfully landing his quad-triple toe jump on Friday.

“I wasn’t feeling completely at my best but I put in the work and the training,” said Chan. “When you do that it allows you to deliver a solid performance like this.  I didn’t expect that kind of score this early in the season but it doesn”t change my mentality or my approach for the rest of the year.”

Yazuru Hanyu of Japan is second at 95.37 and Jason Brown of the U.S., third at 84.77.

In ice dancing, Virtue and Moir earned 75.31 to eclipse their previous best of 75.12 set the Four Continents Championships last season.  Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France are second at 70.59 and Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia are third at 69.07.

At Skate Canada, Virtue and Moir had difficulty with their twizzles and have revamped the short program over the past three weeks in training.

“We moved the twizzles to earlier in the program,” said Virtue.  “It was a bit risky to put it at the end.  Overall the layout of the program is a whole lot better and we have a lot more speed at the end of the program.”

Moir said the changes were beneficial.

“It puts more pressure when you change things around but it has taken us one step higher,” he said.  “It’s normal to tinker with it especially in preparation for the Olympics.  The short program is all about execution and it’s those four required elements that we worry about the most.”

Nicole Orford of Burnaby, B.C.,  and Thomas Williams of Okotoks, Alta., are eighth.

In pairs, Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China lead with 67.69 points.  World championship bronze medallists Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., stand second at 66.07 and Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov of Russia are third at 65.67.

Natasha Purich of Sherwood Park, Alta., and Mervin Tran of Regina are sixth at 55.89.

Amélie Lacoste of Delson, Que., is seventh after the women’s short program.

Patrick Chan unleashes Vivaldi at Thornhill Summer Skate

THORNHILL, ONT: Patrick Chan is starting fresh, sort of.

He packed his bags in Colorado Springs and moved to Detroit over the summer. He and his coach, Kathy Johnson, formed a little caravan of two cars, both packed to the brim, his bicycle perched atop a roof, chugging across the U.S. Midwest plains. He finished unpacking it all only in mid-August. Chan and Johnson made a vacation out of the trip, breaking up what would normally be a two-day journey by stopping in Kansas City and Chicago on the way. It’s a new beginning for Chan, skating out of the Detroit Skating Club.

The Olympic program that he unleashed Aug. 18 at the Thornhill Summer Skate near Toronto is new too, but then again, it’s not. He’s skating to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, an exuberant and flamboyant piece of Italian baroque music that he used to finish second at the world junior championships in 2006-2007. And he used it again to make his debut at the world championships in Sweden where he finished ninth during the 2007-2008 season. The original routine was choreographed by Lori Nichol, this one by David Wilson.

“I’ve had a lot of success with Vivaldi,” Chan said. “The last time I skated that program, I knew I was doing this again for the Olympics.” The first version of the Vivaldi routine was Osborne Colson’s last gift to Chan. Colson died at age 90 in 2006, and he had always doubled as a choreographer, but in 2006-07, he urged Chan to let Nichol choreograph the long program for the first time.

Therefore the Vivaldi routine will be a tribute to Colson, who taught Chan his skating skills. Chan refers to the new version as his Greatest Hits, because it incorporates tones and leitmotifs from the past, even some basic moves that Colson designed for him years ago.

“I’m not trying to do crazy things,” Chan said. “I’m not trying to push the envelope this season. This is not the season to do that. This is the season to go back to what is comfortable, what makes you enjoy skating and what makes you skate the best.” Chan picked the music, and he played a role in the choreography, particularly the skating patterns and the comfortable bits that he loved from previous programs. It feels like a comfy shoe in a way, although it’s loaded with intricate details and turns and moves. Because it’s a challenging routine, Chan still has to learn how to pace himself through it and find a rhythm for himself.  

Chan is keeping his short program from last year, but why not? Skating to “Elegie in E Flat Minor” by Rachmaninoff, he set a world record score of 98.37 at the world championships in London, Ont. last March. He did not skate his short program at Thornhill, only his long just to get it in front of audiences and judges early, so that he can build a momentum to Sochi.

With a revived Nobunari Oda in the field (he won the event, to a standing ovation), Chan felt it was almost like a Grand Prix event.

And when Chan did skate, the packed crowd witnessed his virtuosity with the blade in a program designed to show all of his wares. It wasn’t a perfect skate – he doubled and singled some of his triples  – but Chan intended only to deliver crisp footwork, spins and transitions. No rink is big enough for Chan’s power; his jumps were pressed against the boards of the small hockey rink. He ripped off two quads, one in combination with a triple toe loop, made easier this year by changing his pattern into the quads. Yes, the quads are even easier for him to do right now, Johnson said.

Chan admitted to fighting a mental battle when he presented his Olympic program for the first time. He was nervous, wondering if people would like it. But then, he does like it, so he knew others would, too. They did. He got a standing ovation.

He terms his troubled season of last year – when he fumbled and bumbled and finished second in the free skate at the world championships with a host of miscues – an “experimental year.” While Chan usually has only one new program every season, last season, he opted for new choreographers, Jeff Buttle and Wilson, and had two new programs to master. Wilson’s first routine for Chan was “La Boheme,” and now Chan admits he struggled with it. “I loved ‘La Boheme,’” he said. “But it wasn’t me.” He and Wilson were only just getting to know each other. Now they do.

La Boheme, Chan said, felt like “it dragged along. The way the music was cut, the footwork was a bit slower than normal and the ending choreographic step sequence wasn’t necessarily fast and upbeat.” He’s now doing his signature footwork sequence at the very end of the program to uplift the crowd and judges and perhaps even himself.

In Detroit, he’s at peace and he feels free. He trains alongside former U.S. champions Jeremy Abbott and Alissa Czisny and Canadian teammate Elladj Balde. “We all get along tremendously well,” Chan said. “We are all there for each other. You can tell. All of us are improving together.

“We all push ourselves. And I’ve never laughed so much on sessions with Elladj.” They go to dinner together and play video games. Chan loves classic and muscle cars and he’s moved to the right city for that.

Chan has never competed so early and he’s never had his quads down pat so soon in the season. “It’s all coming together,” he said. “I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.” He feels a responsibility, of perhaps being the first Canadian man to win an Olympic gold medal.

Beverley Smith