LONDON, Ont. — Jet lag, Patrick Chan said, was not a factor.
“Ha! Good one. Maybe my hip flexor’s a little stiff,” said the two-time defending men’s champion, after driving two hours from his training site in Detroit, and an hour later reeling off a near-flawless short program in his first practice session for the world figure skating championships, which open Wednesday with pairs competition at Budweiser Gardens.
He did the quad-triple combination to open, and a smooth triple Axel. No fuss, no muss.
“I felt rushed but ... my first reaction was it felt very much like nationals. Very comfortable. Total automatic pilot, that practice. It’s how I’ve been training the last three weeks.”
If there is a lot at stake here — defending his title in the last worlds before the 2014 Olympics, helping determine the number of men’s berths Canada will have in Sochi — there were no signs of pressure Monday.
“It would mean a lot to me to overcome all the hardships that I had this season, and come to the big competition and nail it on the right day at the right event, and the important event,” he said.
By hardships, he didn’t mean poverty, or the plague.
“When I compare this practice to the Skate Canada Grand Prix practice, there's a very different feeling and environment and atmosphere within my own bubble,” said the 22-year-old. “I felt at Skate Canada that I was very uneasy, no confidence, very low self-esteem — which is really odd for a two-time world champion. I think there was something wrong with ... mainly something off the ice, just not being happy where I am.”
A growing sense that he was losing his edge convinced him to uproot from his longtime training base in Colorado Springs and relocate, for now, to the Detroit Skating Club, where a number of world-class skaters, including the Canadian dance team of Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, train.
“It's an obvious result that going to a different place just for the three weeks before worlds was a good choice just for a change,” he said. “It doesn't necessarily mean it's permanent. It just needed to change, I just needed a kick-start in my life, my skating life.
“I go there every day and it's a job, but it doesn't feel like a job. There's tons of kids who are just there having a good time, it just relieves the pressure, it makes me go out to practice on my session and have fun, and go out with a smile.”
He wouldn’t rule out returning to Colorado Springs — he has a whole life there: house, car, friends — but it doesn’t sound likely.
“I don't know if the environment of the rink is right,” Chan said.
The men’s competition runs Wednesday and Friday nights, following pairs. Women’s and ice dancing go Thursday and Saturday.
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