FIGURE SKATING WORLDS
Patrick Chan absolutely deserved gold medal win
Patrick Chan holds up his gold medal after winning the Men's Freeskate at the World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ont. Friday, March 15, 2013. (Derek Ruttan/QMI Agency)
Patrick Chan was barbecued by some in the American media, and by a few who forgot (or didn't know) that there is a short program in figure skating. But that doesn't mean he didn't deserve the gold medal at the world figure skating championships last week.
Lost amidst the criticisms of his freeskate routine was the fact that the Toronto native's short program was a spectacular world record performance, which put him well ahead of the field and enabled him to hold off upstart Denis Ten of Kazakhstan following the free. Also forgotten or ignored was that Ten's freeskate, though impressive, was far from perfect. It was almost as if some writers, including a few who weren't even at the championships, felt that Chan should have hung his head in shame, handed back his gold medal and then thrown himself on a sword or something to that effect.
All the hot air about "Chanflation" and the skater's less-than-stellar freeskate was just that — a lot of hot air. The Ottawa-born skater deserved his third world title on Friday night at Budweiser Gardens in London. And his short program, along with the two solid quads in his free, including one in combination with a triple toeloop, demonstrated that he's not far off his stellar 2011 form and that with a good performance next year in Sochi, he could easily become the first Canadian to win the Olympic gold in men's singles.
"I think people ask (about why he won the gold) because they don't maybe understand figure skating," said Chan. "It's totally understandable that people have their doubts. You look at hockey. It's simple — score more goals than the other team. Figure skating's a little more subjective. I would keep telling people that I deserved it and I would love to explain why."
The first couple of days at the worlds couldn't have gone better for the Canadian team: Chan set a new world record to win the short and another Canadian, Kevin Reynolds, 22, of North Vancouver, B.C., performed one of his best opening routines to finish third in the short, fresh off of winning the Four Continents event last month in Osaka, Japan. Two pairs and two dance teams, including defending Olympic champs Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, also put themselves in gold medal contention after the short and Edmonton's Kaetlyn Osmond, 17, surprised almost everyone by finishing fourth in the ladies short, setting herself up for a possible medal in only her first full season as a senior skater.
But even with Reynolds and Osmond unable to carry over their impressive performances from the short to freeskate, and Chan not having his best long program ever, and Virtue and Moir unable to catch their American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White for the dance gold, the 2013 worlds were a huge success for the Canadian team — which bodes well for the Olympics next winter. Skate Canada officials can actually dream of four medals in Sochi (there's a new Team event), maybe even five if Osmond continues to progress at the pace she has the last year. Canada won medals in three disciplines in London, tying a record, and qualified 17 skaters for Sochi out of a maximum of 18. Only in the ladies event did Canada qualify one less than the max.
"I would say since we came on board in 2007 this has been overall the most successful worlds we've had as a team," said Michael Slipchuk, Skate Canada's director of high performance.
Slipchuk said even better than the numbers is the fact that, unlike years past, there is real depth in all the disciplines at the senior level, with the possible exception of the ladies.
"We've been really fortunate to have world medallists every year, of all colours," said the former skater. "But often the next (Canadian) skater (from the top person) in that discipline could be 12-15 places lower."
Slipchuk said it's beneficial to have Reynolds in the top five now pushing Chan, as well as Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (who finished fifth) pushing Virtue and Moir in the dance and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (third) and Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch (fourth) slugging it out in the pairs.
"When you start getting success, it breeds," he said. "Skaters take a lot of pride in being competitive. You can really notice in the last two years Kevin really trying to close the gap on Patrick rather than being closer to the guys behind him. Kaitlyn and Andrew the same thing, they're pushing forward, not looking back."
"You look at the Japanese men. On any given year, anyone of their men could medal," said Slipchuk. "That's what we want."
And he means in all events.