Patrick Chan spoke to the press today about the technical challenges he faces, the changes he has made since Four Continents and what he thinks it will take to remain competitive.
On Changing the Order of Elements in the Long Program:
After Four Continents we had a meeting almost immediately after the long program to see how we were going to proceed when it came to training and preparing for Worlds.
Before, in my long program in competition, I would open with a quad toe and then a triple Axel and the third jump would be a quad Salchow.
We changed the order of the first three elements and moved around some of the combinations so that I open with a quad toe, then a quad Salchow and the triple Axel as the third jump. We gave the old layout as many chances as we could to see how consistent it would be but it was not consistent enough. So I thought it was logical to try a different order and see how that would turn out at Worlds.
The second part of the change is the combinations have been moved. In previous programs the triple Axel was in combination in the second half. Now we have decided that I have lost out on quite a few points from not completing enough combinations — I did not fill my combination bracket — so it will be quad toe-triple toe, the first Axel will be a sequence — triple Axel-half loop-triple Salchow. Then it will be a triple Lutz-triple toe loop as the second last jump near the end of the program. And those will be my three combinations. A second quad toe and triple Axel will be in the second half.
That is a change in the plan but that is not advancing the technical progression that you had originally planned when you came back?
I think it might be a higher value just because I am not doing a sequence with a half loop-triple Salchow. I think that value is a little higher than the double toe-double loop, which is what I was doing previously as a sequence. But that wasn’t really the intention of the change. The change was more to allow myself a new approach and the possibility of having the jumps become more successful under pressure in competition.
What did you take away from your experience at Four Continents?
It is hard to say. Number one I would say was making the change of the order of the elements. Trying something new to make it more possible for me to perform a clean program with a quad Salchow — and three quads in the long.
For the first time I had a chance to watch the top three men — Nathan, Yuzu and Shoma. I watched them in the green room. Number one it was mind blowing what these guys are doing technically but also it was interesting to watch them skate. I have never watched their programs from beginning to end. It was great to just see — yes, I am at a disadvantage technically, but I was also thinking about what kind of strategy can I come up to make up the deficit in the technical realm. So it was eye-opening but also calming and resourceful.
Are you surprised at how much skating has advanced since 2014? Were you expecting that?
I was not expecting that. I thought that Yuzu in Sochi in 2014 really had pushed the limit and was hitting that limit, but clearly that has been proven wrong by Nathan. Not only Nathan but future skaters to come. We are in a very exciting period in men’s figure skating — the pros of the quads being complete but cons is the mystery of the byproduct of men technically pushing the body to the limit. That will only be something we will find out years from now — what damage, or no damage, that we are doing to our bodies.
Do you feel as if you are narrowing that gap between the top three skaters or does it feel like they are racing out further in front of you?
I think the best way to describe it is that last year coming back…it was like they were getting further and further away from me. Now I have caught back up to their pace. I am still a little bit behind but at least I am running at the same speed — maybe on a parallel path. That has been my approach since last season because now I feel that I can compete against these guys, but I still have my work cut out to be closer to competing against them to be on the podium. We are at a point now where it’s crazy.
I have to accept the fact — and I have — that I need to basically skate a clean short program and a clean long program if I am going to stick to the technical plan that I have this season. Now next year is another story. Am I going to increase the number of quads in my short program to make it a little easier, but a little harder? It is a balancing act in men’s skating.
Are you ever discouraged or ever think there are so many other things I could be doing with my life right now?
You kind of hit it on the point. I mean that is where the sports psychologist has been very helpful. We have those conversations where, OK, yes, it does get so frustrating because I am running as fast as I can but they are creeping away from me. It does not help seeing other people have success — being in the spot that I used to be in. So it is identifying what is just pure emotion and reaction from my own mind and what is something that I actually need to improve on.
Instead of being frustrated maybe I should look at…take Four Continents for example. Immediately after Four Continents I was frustrated but I took that frustration and thought about a plan of attack to prepare for Worlds. That was to adjust the order of the elements because I believe that gives me a little more arsenal — a little more attack — to compete against the other guys.
You have talked in the past you are fearful that the balance is being tipped a little bit too far to the technical side and maybe too far from the artistic side. Are you looking at this as a new challenge or as “I need to lose some of my choreography so I can get these jumps in?”
Both of those points are, I think, true. No matter what, I don’t care what anyone says — but what I know from my experience so far in my comeback is that when it comes to adding more quads or being successful at landing quads in the competition when it counts, the transitions and skating skills do get sacrificed 100 percent, I guarantee.
Does that make me shy away from pushing myself technically? No, not at all. I think I have go with the direction that the sport is going in which is dictated by the top men’s skaters — the top three in the world right now. All I can do is follow because that is where the sport is going. All I know is that I can only control what I can bring to the ice and maybe that is being able to combine the difficulty of the quads with some really great transitions and skating skills and that may be my advantage above the other men. But that is not for me to decide. All I can do is skate the way I have always skated and add additional quads as I go along — to my capability obviously.
The reordering of elements seems that the program is just as tough as it was before?
We are looking at little changes that make a big difference. Whether changing the order really does make a difference — no, maybe not — but at least it was a new challenge or goal to motivate me to achieve heading into Worlds two or three weeks before.
Has the comeback been what you expected and has it been worth it?
Yes and no. It is not a simple answer I guess. It has been completely different than my approach going into Sochi, or going into Vancouver. I am at a different point in my life so skating plays a different role in my life. So my approach has been completely different. Not good or bad — just completely different. It is exciting for me because I am exploring the unknown, seeing how far I can take myself technically — if I can finally achieve the goal of skating a great short program and a long program, hopefully on the right day. That is all I can ask myself to do. It has already been exciting because after Sochi in 2014 I never thought I could add another different quad from a quad toe, let alone train it fulltime, so already I have surprised myself.
How do you feel going into Helsinki compared to last year?
Oh, much better. Miles ahead I think when it comes to confidence and also the planned program of the elements. I think I have a very good planned program in the short and the long to compete against the top guys, if it is accomplished or executed properly, whereas last year there was always that lingering doubt. I was behind the 8-ball compared to the other guys.
Are you feeling any pressure about getting three Olympic berths?
I think we have the best team going to Worlds to give the men of Canada the best chance of having three spots. With how this season has gone has gone — nothing is guaranteed, but obviously Kevin and I will do our best. It is not the right way to think if you are going into Worlds. “Am I going to secure the most spots for men for my country.” That is adding additional, unnecessary pressure. We have a strong men’s team going into Worlds and we will do what we can do. Everything else is out of our control. All I know is we have a good team.
I have had a lot more opportunities and future projects beyond competing. A lot more now going into 2018 than I did going into 2014. It is not so much about deciding whether or not I want to hang up my skates after 2018, but sort of exploring other future opportunities or projects — like opening a skating rink in Vancouver. Does that appeal to me or does competing appeal to me more than any other project that will come my way? That is something that I have decide after the Olympics and maybe even after Worlds in 2018.