Patrick Chan looks for confidence boost at Canadian figure skating championship

Chan looks for confidence-boosting skate

Making Canadian figure skating history at the national championship isn’t as important to Patrick Chan as recovering his morale.

The three-time men’s world champion can match the record for Canadian men’s titles next week in Ottawa by equalling the nine won by Montgomery Wilson between 1929 and 1939.

Chan is coming off a disappointing free skate in December’s Grand Prix final in Marseille, France. Second after the short program, three falls in his long program dropped him to fifth.

The Canadian championship starting Monday at TD Place Arena is Chan’s chance to start the second half of his competitive season on a strong note.

“A good program at nationals is pretty important,” Chan said Friday during a media conference call. “It’s such a great place to regain some confidence.

“It gives me another chance to get another program out there and get my legs under me right before Four Continents and the world championships.”

The 26-year-old from Toronto took a hiatus from skating in 2014-15 after earning a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

When he returned to competition, Chan had no choice but to up his technical difficulty with big jumpers such as Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, Shoma Uno of Japan and American Nathan Chen in the field.

“At this point in figure skating, the jumps really dictate the performance a lot,” Chan said.

“The next goal would be once I able to do two quad toes and a quad Salchow in the long program, would be maybe to add a quad toe and a quad Salchow in the short program to replace the triple Lutz.”

Chan landed a quad Salchow late in his free program Marseille, but believes he may have focused on it at a cost to his other elements.

“Maybe the anxiety and the anticipation of getting to the quad (Salchow) being the third jump, I maybe overlooked the important elements or tools I needed to tell myself to do a good quad toe, to do a good triple Axel,” Chan said.

“That was one of the things I, we had to be aware of for the next competition.”

He won Skate Canada in October on the strength of his artistic marks in the free skate. Despite a fall on his quad Salchow at the Cup of China in November, Chan still moved from third after the short program to first.

In dissecting what went wrong in Marseille, Chan is addressing the time between the six-minute warmup for the free skate and his performance, which can be 45 minutes if he’s last in the order.

“I’ve been working with sports psychologists trying to deal with controlling the anticipation, the anxiety, obviously the nervousness,” Chan explained.

“Trying to control, whether it’s with breathing exercises or using actual tools or machines or whatever to keep myself calm leading up to my turn to skate, I think that will really promote a good state of calm and physical feeling going into the long program if I were going to skate last.”

The idea that he can scale new heights with quads he’s never done before, plus his ambition to skate winning short and long programs at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, is what drives Chan now.

“My most important long-term goal going into next year’s Olympics is to skate two really great programs at one event, a clean short program and a clean long program, having done everything I planned to do and executing it well,” he said.

“If you asked me four years ago if I would be landing a quad Salchow or putting it in a long program, I wouldn’t believe it. Surprising yourself is always quite fun.”

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press