LONDON, ONT.– Patrick Chan won the world figure skating title again but not at all the way he wanted to do it.
He began his La Boheme free skate by effortlessly landing his quad-toe, triple-toe combination and his next quad-toe as well. He looked every bit the champion he now is for the third time in a row.
But then he fell on his triple Lutz and again on his triple Axel, and near the end of the program he doubled a planned triple Lutz. His feelings were abundantly clear when he hit his forehead in frustration before leaving the ice.
“I’m a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to do a great program like the short program in front of an audience that was so special,” Chan said. “But I’ll take the win and put it in my back pocket and learn from this.”
Chan went into the Friday’s skate with a seven-point lead and came out barely hanging on to a one point advantage over Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten, the surprise star of these worlds . Ten took the silver medal and Spain’s Javier Fernandez the bronze.an was awarded the medal Friday night but he really won it on Wednesday with his exquisite Rachmaninov routine, which set a new world record score of 98.37.
Chan’s combined short and free program score of 267.78 is well below his personal best of 280.98 from 2011, when he won his first world title.Meanwhile, 19-year-old Ten’s overall score was his personal best by a whopping 37 points. “I’m thankful for that beautiful short program,” said Chan, acknowledging that it saved his title. That, and the crowd. “I think the audience saved me,” he said, referring to the deafening applause he’s enjoyed all week, even when he steps on the ice just to practise.
His short program was the first sign that the Chan of old, the skater who for so long set the bar for others to reach, was on his way back. Prior to the on-ice medal ceremony, Chan apologized to the audience for not being able to follow that up with the same quality of free skate. “I’m sorry I didn’t get to do a good program,” he said. “I’m glad you got to see those quads.” No matter that he won it by the slightest of margins, holding the world title less than a year before the 2014 Sochi Olympics still announces Chan as the man to beat. “You know what? Maybe I’m just saving it for the Olympic Games,” the 22-year-old Chan joked.
On a more serious note, Chan said he’s never fallen on a triple Lutz before and being able to come back from that shock and continue with his program was a valuable learning moment for him.
After Chan’s skate there were four others still to come, including Canada’s Kevin Reynolds, leaving the audience in suspense as to who would actually win. Reynolds, known as a quad specialist for having three in his free program, finished fifth. That last male skater to win three world championships in a row was Russian Alexei Yagudin in 2000.
Those kinds of history-book moments are important, of course, but bigger still is the momentum Chan says he now feels going into the all-important Olympic season. Of late, Chan has been feeling his 16 years of skating weighing heavily on him. After his short program, Chan said he was thrilled, after a difficult season, to have finally delivered his best on “the day that counts.” Despite his struggles in the free skate, he still said he was feeling “very optimistic.”
Skating observers had expressed concerns when Chan parted ways with his coach and jump specialist Christy Krall and long-time choreographer Lori Nichol, and more recently with his decision to skip the final competition before worlds and leave his training base in Colorado Springs for Detroit, which he felt had better atmosphere at the rink. “I took a leap of faith,” he said about his recent decisions. “You’ve got to take a risk and the reward was very high, obviously.”