Ever since finishing fifth in front of home crowds at Vancouver 2010, Patrick Chan has been focusing on realising his goal of Olympic triumph. “I gained a lot of experience at my first Games. It was very special. Those Games took place in my home country, and I was very young – just 19 – and at that age you don’t have any patience, you don’t know how to take your time. Vancouver wasn’t my time. I wanted to win gold, but I finished off the podium. In hindsight, I know that it was a very good result. I was injured ahead of the Games, then I changed coach at the last minute, and I’d lost my appetite for training. But I gained a load of experience and maturity, and that has helped me going into the next Games in Sochi. I told myself that I had four years ahead of me to plan really well.”
And that is exactly what he has done. His dedication has resulted in world domination of his sport. Chan went on to achieve three successive world championship titles, in Moscow 2011, Nice 2012 and London (Canada) 2013. In each of those years he has also been the undisputed national champion, and twice won the final of the ISU Grand Prix. And in 2013, at the prestigious Trophée Eric Bompard event in Paris, he set a new world points record with a total of 295.27. “Almost immediately after Vancouver everything changed for me,” he explains. “I developed physically, I became stronger and today I am at a point in my career where I’m more focused on the mental aspect. Physically, I feel I’m at my peak, I’m injury free. It’s all about my head, about having a good mental strategy.”
A man for Four Seasons
Going into the Olympic season, Chan chose for his free programme Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. His reasons owed as much to sentiment as to logic. “I skated to this piece of music in 2008 when I won the national championship for the first time at the age of 17,” he explains. “I beat the world champion Jeffrey Buttle. I hadn’t expected to win. So it became my favourite piece of music. I’ve gone back to it because it’s such a marvellous piece, and one I can listen to a thousand times without getting bored, and it inspires me to skate at a really high tempo.”
Chan may be at the peak of his sport, but in his own mind he is still “in the foothills of Everest”, and continues to plot a step by step assault on the summit. And it is this methodical approach that he will be taking to Sochi, as he focuses not on the opposition and purely on his own performance. “My only opponent is myself. If I skate like I know I can, like I do in training, like I’ve planned, then nobody will be able to beat me”. In a free programme that includes two quad toe loops, he says it’s important to take each element as it comes. “If you think about one problem at a time, everything goes more smoothly. It means I can take my time, control my breathing, manage my programme more calmly, and enjoy myself – which is also vital. It’s important to have a strategy.”
A scientific strategy allied with sheer artistic talent are a potent combination, and one that means Chan has every chance of becoming the first ever Canadian man to win an Olympic figure skating gold.
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