Canada's boy wonder of figure skating will soon get the opportunity to prove he's ready to be the main man.
Patrick Chan competes in the pivotal Cup of Russia this weekend in Moscow. If he's successful, he'll be off to the Grand Prix final in Beijing to serve notice that, in the post-Olympic rush, he's capable of being the next great champion.
Chan still has some convincing to do.
"I'm not a great traveller," he admitted after claiming the Skate Canada title in Kingston, Ont. "It'll be tough in Moscow."
The quad jump is finally in his competitive repertoire. But it's far from a sure thing. And in claiming the Skate Canada crown for the second time, there were some miscues that nearly brought him down. In particular, a tentative short program caused Chan to come from behind to grasp victory on friendly ice.
In his exhibition performance at Kingston, he looked more relaxed and playful than at any time in the previous year. He skated to the song, Don't Worry, Be Happy.
"I guess that's why I put this together with choreographer Lori Nichol," Chan smiled. "It's a whole new approach for me this season.
"You might say it's a new philosophy. I don't want to be worried about things. But instead, I want to be happy about skating."
Indeed, Chan faces enormous pressure every time he competes. At the opening press conference for Skate Canada, he was the only athlete anyone wanted to talk to. The rest of the Canadian team, which had just been introduced, was all but ignored by the scrum.
Chan's opening performance in the wake of all the attention fell flat in more ways than one.
He's a skater who is so talented that he can often recover from a bad outing. But as the stakes get higher, it won't be so easy for Chan. Now is the time for this supremely gifted athlete to bear down and convince the world that he's a gritty competitor.
It means stepping up in Russia.
"I don't think he'll want to back into the Grand Prix final by finishing fourth," shrugged Michael Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high performance director. "Patrick needs to get to Beijing by winning in Moscow."
Make no mistake. This is Chan's big chance to prove he's as good as we all think he is.
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