Patrick Chan, the two-time world champion, and Olympic champion dance pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir head a strong field at this weekend’s Skate Canada International in Windsor, Ont.
For Chan, it will be his first opportunity since a disastrous appearance at the Japan Open three weeks ago to forestall further criticism of his preparedness for the upcoming season.
“[The Japan Open] was the perfect competition to kind of find my bearings and then see what it’s like to compete with these programs,” said the 21-year-old. “So it didn’t go well.”In a conference call last week from his training base in Colorado, Chan saw the warm-up event in Saitama as an opportunity to test his two new programs choreographed by Dave Wilson and former Canadian rival Jeffery Buttle.
That “it didn’t go well” was a mild way of describing what happened in Japan.
Competing in a strong field that included the 2010 world champion, Daisuke Takahashi, as well as the 2006 Olympic gold medalist, Evgeni Plushenko, of Russia, Chan admitted to feeling “a bit intimidated,” particularly after both managed to put together strong performances at the event.
The strength of his competitors so early in the year surprised him, and it planted the seed of doubt over his abilities to execute his new routines. As the Toronto-native described it, he retreated “into his turtle shell”.
In that uncomfortable and compromising state, the normally clean skating Chan fell four times in Japan. He finished last at the event with a final score of 137.42, nearly 35 points behind the first-place Takahashi.
The five-time Canadian champion wasn’t about to blame the programs that he performed as the reason for his short-comings.
“I loved my program,” said Chan. “I loved the choreography that Jeff [Buttle] and Dave [Wilson] did for the short and long program.
“But somehow I just couldn’t assimilate myself into the program. I couldn’t feel it. I didn’t feel accomplished after doing a run through in practice.”
He pointed to a feeling of indifference as the possible cause for what happened.
“I was training well, programs were going well, but got to Japan Open and I just didn’t feel like I wanted to be there,” said Chan. “I didn’t feel like I was really committed to the program.”
He would further connect that indifference with what could only be best described as winner’s fatigue.
“I had two great seasons and I got the results I wanted and I guess you become numb to it,” said the 21-year-old.
“You become numb to the feeling of accomplishing something. It’s hard to explain … I just didn’t really care.”
But rather than discouraging Chan further, he instead looked at it as the best thing that could have happened to him. Calling it a turning point early in the 2012-13 season, it was the “slap in the face” he needed to snap him back into focus.
“I kind of woke up and came back and really wanted to work hard,” said Chan. “Really motivated to do my programs and run my sections and get the jumps more consistent; just give myself more confidence.”
Chan will have a home town crowd supporting his quest for a third straight Grand Prix championship this year, an event that holds additional significance as the finals will be held in the future home of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
But Chan wants fans to understand that the person that walked into Japan three weeks ago is not the individual that will be on the ice in Windsor.
“I somehow came back to Colorado after feeling like, ‘hey, these programs are really great,’” said Chan. “‘These programs are different, people really noticed this.
“People noticed that it was a totally different style, but said very positive things about it.’”