What doesn’t break you can only make you stronger.
That’s the adage Patrick Chan will be taking with him to Vancouver as he looks to become the first Canadian men’s figure skater to win gold at the Olympic Games.
After tearing his left calf muscle last fall, Chan was forced to alter his training regimen.
“My calf is very healthy, it’s 100 per cent. It’s getting better every day,” said Chan, in a conference call with reporters. “It’s crazy how many things I’ve changed in my preparation since I hurt my calf.”
“So the calf is really a blessing in disguise.”
Chan said he now trains on a treadmill, allowing him to run more flat-footed and alleviate the pressure on his calf.
Speaking of pressure, the three-time national champion is not worried about the heightened expectations of skating on home ice.
“Having the Olympics in your home country really provides me with a lot of great, great energy and motivation. It will be a great hype but you have to learn how to manage it because Canada has never been so excited.”
Just five weeks prior to the Games, longtime coach Don Laws informed Chan he would be taking a full-time position at a new skating facility in Florida.
Not to worry, joining Chan in Vancouver will be technical specialist Christy Krall and choreographer Lori Nichol, who have redirected Chan’s focus on and off the ice.
That’s just fine with the 19 year-old Toronto native, who has only had male coaches since he started skating.
“It’s great, a different environment. They are really great people and I’ve had so much fun,” he said. “When I’m starting to falter a little [with training], they make sure I get back in line.”
Return of the king
The men’s event is considered to be wide-open with several podium contenders, but none bigger than Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko.
The three-time world champion and Torino gold medallist in 2006 returned from a three-year layoff to win gold at the European championships last month.
Plushenko blew away the competition, finishing 16.85 points ahead of second place Stephane Lambiel.
The Russian landed a quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination while dazzling the audience and judges with improved spin technique.
The 27 year-old is pleased with his program heading into the Games.
“I feel healthy right now,” Plushenko told the Agence France-Presse. “My speed and steps are much better today. I feel much better.”
Switzerland’s Lambiel is also returning from retirement, following a thigh injury that had sidelined the two-time world champion and 2006 Olympic silver medallist for over a year.
Chan grew up idolizing both skaters, yet remains undaunted to their return. In fact, he is embracing the chance to unseat the incumbent favorites.
“It just makes me more hungry. It’s really exciting for me to see they are doing well,” he said. “Plushenko and Lambiel are both skaters I’ve looked up to and they’ve been around for much, much longer than I have.
“I don’t want to be sitting back and watching them … I really want to attack.”
The Americans will send three medal-worthy skaters to Vancouver in Jeremy Abbott, Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir.
“Jeremy was phenomenal at nationals, just the passion he had was phenomenal,” Chan said about the two-time U.S. champion. “That’s what I expect from the U.S men, they are really strong guys.”
France’s Brian Joubert, who won the bronze at last year’s world championships, along with Daisuke Takahashi and Nobunari Oda of Japan, round out one of the most competitive fields in Olympics history.
Also representing Canada will be Vaughn Chipeur of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.
The 25 year-old won silver at the 2009 Canadian championships and will make his first Olympic appearance in Vancouver. His coach Scott Davis, a former two-time U.S. champion, is pleased with the strides Chipeur has been making on the ice.
“I think, to be honest, he’s just tapping into his potential,” said Davis, in a conference call with reporters. “He’s breaking his shell a little bit.”
But all eyes in Vancouver will be on Chan, as he attempts to carve his name into Canadian history.
“I’m super excited, the days are really coming close. I’m kind of in a dream, I feel like I’m living in a non-reality… but having that in my mind keeps motivating me everyday to work harder.”