Injury behind him, Patrick Chan eager to get back on the ice at Skate Canada

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chan excited to show the world what he can do

KITCHENER, Ont. — Patrick Chan isn’t picking a fight. Honest.

He just wants Evgeni Plushenko to know that, despite a monster win in the Olympic champion’s first competition since coming out of retirement, figure skating isn’t quite where he left it four years ago.

“I don’t think he knows that there are other skaters who have changed and evolved since he’s been taking a break the last four years,” Chan said Thursday. “So I don’t think he’ll be expecting what a lot of the skaters, including me, are, how much better we’ve got since he won the Olympics last.”

Chan, the reigning world silver medalist, is making his Grand Prix debut this week at Skate Canada. He was supposed to compete at the Rostelecom Cup — along with Plushenko — but withdrew before the event after tearing a muscle in his left calf during training.

Plushenko wound up routing the field with a performance that left no doubt he intends to be a serious contender for gold — again. And, in a display that didn’t sit well with some, the Russian pounded his chest after his free skate and lifted his finger in victorious salute — his way of saying he was back on top.

“It of course gets you pretty pumped up to do well here at Skate Canada,” Chan said. “I don’t blame him. I think he can get away with it because he was in his home country.”

Chan, who turns 19 next month, gave the world championships a much-needed jolt when he called out Brian Joubert for his criticism of top skaters not doing quadruple jumps. Joubert, the 2007 world champion, had made similar remarks at the ‘08 worlds, which Canada’s Jeff Buttle won without doing a quad.

Chan had the last word, winning the silver while Joubert took the bronze.

And he said he has nothing but respect for Plushenko.

“I’m excited to have the chance to compete against him,” Chan said. “He’s a great competitor, I really looked up to him when I was young and I still look up to him.”

For now, Chan is just excited to be back on the ice.

There were about two weeks when he could do run-throughs, but no jumps. It forced him to rethink his practice strategy, focusing on quality more than quantity. He also had a state-of-the-art treatment in which his own blood was drawn, spun and concentrated, and then injected back into his injured muscle.

“It was really cool, I felt like a king,” Chan said.

Chan is the heavy favorite in Skate Canada. No matter how well he does, though, it won’t be enough to get him into next month’s Grand Prix final. Only the top six skaters in the overall standings advance, and one event won’t give Chan the points he needs.

That’s fine, said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada’s high performance director.

“The key thing is, ‘Am I healthy?’” Slipchuk said. “More of a concern would be if he had gone to Russia, injured himself more, missed Skate Canada, maybe missed Canadians, then had to step into Vancouver, that would have been a concern.

“But he’s competing from now until Vancouver, so you can build that momentum.”

Chan isn’t the only Canadian favored this week. Joannie Rochette, who also won a silver medal at worlds, is trying to defend her Skate Canada title.

She’ll be challenged by Akiko Suzuki, the surprise winner at Cup of China; U.S. champion Alissa Czisny; former world junior champ Caroline Zhang; and Mirai Nagasu, winner of the 2008 U.S. title.

“It’s so much fun,” Rochette said of competing in Canada. “When they call your name, the crowd cheers, there’s just this warm feeling when you get on the ice.”

While Rochette is trying not to look too far ahead to the Vancouver Games, she said it’s difficult not to notice the Olympic buzz.

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