By Alex Consiglio
The Toronto Star
Patrick Chan says he plans to mind his own business once he lands in Russia for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, now marred by the country’s recent anti-gay laws.
Chan doesn’t plan to protest Russia’s controversial policy, which outlaws any form of homosexual “propaganda, ” like some other athletes did at the world athletics championships in Moscow.
“My job is to skate, ” Chan said Sunday, minutes after revealing the new free skate program he’ll take to Russia. “I’m not disputing anything. I’m not a politician.
“I’m here to just enjoy myself and skate on the ice with other great athletes – we all deserve a chance.”
Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro competed with her fingernails painted in rainbow colours in support of gay rights, before being ordered to change them. Chan has no such plans.
“I don’t have time to preoccupy myself with that kind of stuff, ” he said. “I’m already stressed out enough about just getting this program out in time for Sochi.”
But, in his opinion, Chan said, someone’s sexuality or race shouldn’t put them at any disadvantage in life – especially when it comes to competing at the Olympics on a world stage.
“It doesn’t matter what colour you are or what sexuality you are, if you are successful, if you have something to show, you have talent, you deserve to be on the ice with everyone, ” he said.
The soon-to-be 23-year-old – arguably Canada’s best chance at gold – revealed his new long program at the Skate Canada Central Ontario meet on Sunday, fittingly at the Thornhill Community Centre he practised in as a child. Chan is going back to his roots for Sochi.
“This is the season to go back to what is comfortable and what makes you happy, what makes you enjoy skating, ” said Chan, who will again be skating to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the music that propelled him to success early on in his career.
Chan won the 2008 Canadian championship skating to Vivaldi – his biggest win early on that laid the groundwork for Olympic aspirations. He finished fifth at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and plans to grab gold this time around.
But Chan has struggled recently with his free skate, stumbling and falling through his La Boheme program, most recently at the 2013 world championships. He still managed gold then, thanks to a strong short program, which set a world record score of 98.37.
That’s why Chan doesn’t plan on changing his short program before Sochi and is concentrating on refining his long program, which now starts off with a bang – back-to-back quads.
“We thought it’d be best to put out both quads … right away so that I can kind of relax in the footwork, ” he said. “I don’t have to think about any other jump after that … and it’ll bring the audience to their feet (right away).”
Chan nailed his first quad Sunday, but stumbled on his second and then nearly fell soon after while attempting a triple loop. Luckily, he was not competing in the event; organizers allowed him to make a surprise appearance to publicly skate his new long program for the first time.
“It wasn’t a great skate, it wasn’t a perfect skate, but I got done what I needed to get done in order to feel comfortable when I get to Sochi, ” said Chan, who simply wanted to stay on his feet while attempting the new program for the first time. He scored a 164, well below medal contention.
Chan said Vivaldi brings him back to his early days, when he skated to it under the guidance of Osborne Colson, his former coached who died in 2006. “There are little reminders in there that Mr. Colson made me do, ” said Chan. “That’s the beauty of it.”
Looking back to those early days and ahead to Sochi, Chan – who has changed coaches a number of times since 2006 – says he’s confident he’ll finish better than fifth.
“I think I’m the biggest contender for a gold medal at the Olympics, ” he said. “It’s crazy how much I’ve changed and evolved as an athlete. It’s all coming together; I’m kind of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Originally published in The Toronto Star.