Patrick Chan wins third straight figure skating worlds title despite shaky performance
Coquitlam's Kevin Reynolds finishes fifth
Men's gold medal winner Patrick Chan of Canada skates a victory lap during victory ceremonies at the world figure skating championships on Friday, March 15, 2013 in London, Ont.
Photograph by: Paul Chiasson, Canadian Press
LONDON, Ont. — It never looks good at the moment of victory when just about the first words out of the mouth of a man who has just won the world figure skating championship are: “I’m sorry.”
But Patrick Chan was only being honest.
Even his skating, by his own lofty standards, was pretty sorry Friday night — almost sorry enough to lose the seven-point cushion he took into the men’s free skate — and only a couple of small bobbles by his nearest pursuer, Kazakhstan’s silver medallist Denis Ten, kept the pro-Patrick audience from being sorrier still.
“I’m sorry I didn’t do a good program, I wanted to do it so badly,” he told the crowd, via an interview on the big screen.
Later, he admitted to being shocked by the falls that plagued his free skate.
“I would never say I was embarrassed (to win), that would be quite harsh, but ... I’m a little disappointed I couldn’t go out and do another great program like the short program, and give back to the audience the love they’ve given to me.
“But I’m going to take a win, and put it in my back pocket, and learn from it.”
Coquitlam’s Kevin Reynolds finished fifth in another very strong, if slightly flawed, performance behind Brian Orser’s two foreign skaters, bronze medallist Javier Fernandez of Spain and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, who was fourth.
It was all about the jumps for Chan. The rest was a given, because his combination of speed and footwork, grace and musicality is unparalleled among his peers, maybe by any male skater ever ... when he’s on his game, that is.
But you wouldn’t have known it Friday, when — after landing his opening quad-triple combination, following it with a second clean quad, and looking to be all but home and dry — he began to come unspooled.
He leaned backward into a triple Lutz and fell, hit the ice again on a triple Axel, staggered out of a three-jump combination, doubled a triple Lutz and just generally looked under-confident and out of sorts.
When he finished he slapped his forehead, and the nervous ovation he got from the first sellout of the week — within a few tickets of Budweiser Gardens’ 6,691 capacity, anyway — betrayed a good deal of uncertainty about what was still to come.
Ten would have needed to exceed his personal best by 23 points to catch Chan, and he almost did, coming within 1.3 points of the Canadian’s winning total of 267.78, which is far below his best.
Chan said it crossed his mind, late in the program, that he might have lost the title.
“I was really, really bummed, because I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, it would really be awful to end on such a bad note because of all the mistakes I made,’ ” he said. “And the double Axel was a little shaky and I was just fighting it the whole time. I felt the program was going by really slowly and it didn’t feel at all like I was skating it in practice, which was my first point of frustration.”
Bottom line, one supposes, is that it’s three world titles in a row for the 22-year-old from Toronto — exactly how Kurt Browning entered the buildup to Albertville 22 years ago, with three straight world titles under his belt, requiring only the Olympic cherry on top.
But it didn’t work out for Browning, and this performance — having also failed to nail his free skate a year ago in Nice — won’t exactly enhance a feeling of invincibility for Chan.
“It’s hard to go as a world champion, but many athletes have done it,” said Orser, who was world champion in 1987 heading into the Calgary Olympics. “For me, it pushed me. I was proud to be world champion, it got me to the rink every day. The thing is, he has to just keep looking forward. You can’t look over your shoulder and you can’t gauge what’s going to happen at the Olympics by the Grand Prix final, or Europeans, or anything else. It’s a whole different animal, and the playing field is all level again.”
There had been five different men’s champions in the five seasons before Chan began his three-in-a-row run, so the fact that he has prevailed and remained on top during the era of a demanding scoring system speaks well of how complete a skater he is, and how his margin for error is greater than anyone else’s.
But it wasn’t greater by much, after a terrific skate by Ten, who trains in California under coach Frank Carroll.
“Who would ever have thought that? There’s a lot of pools that didn’t pay out,” laughed Orser. “The boy’s a great skater. When it all comes together, he’s great ... and there’s some new blood, right? That’s kind of cool.”
“I’m very, very proud of it,” said Ten. “When I won the small medal (for silver in the short program) I was so excited, and then I didn’t sleep for two nights — not because I was excited, but I was nervous. I’ve had so many bad skates this year, but I felt ready to do it.”
For Reynolds, who did three quads in the program, one of them with a two-footed landing, it was confirmation that he has arrived among the best skaters in the world.
“I mean, setting top six as a goal at the beginning of the season seemed like a bit of a stretch to most people,” he admitted, “so now I’ve kind of proven I belong with this top group of skaters, and of course I still have a lot of work to do on the second mark in order to be truly competitive, but I’ll be working hard on that.
“Considering where I was 10 days ago, and the injury I had” — a ruptured cyst in his knee — “I couldn’t have expected much more here. I’m really happy with a top-five finish. I have a little regret about the (triple) Axel, because it was under-rotated, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience skating in a worlds in Canada, and I’ll treasure this memory for my whole career.”
Chan becomes the 12th man in figure skating history to win three championships in a row, and his is the 12th gold medal by a Canadian male since 1987, when Orser’s victory in Cincinnati ended a 23-year drought. It was followed by Browning’s wins in 1989, ’90, ’91 and ’93, and Stojko’s in 1994, ’95 and ’97, and Jeff Buttle’s in 2008.
He is Canada’s seventh male world champion, a list that also includes Don Jackson (1962) and Donald McPherson (1963).
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