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Figure skatingChan still learning to be champion

Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 | 07:32 PM

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World men's figure skating champion Patrick Chan caused a stir at the ISU Grand Prix Final this week for comments he made about feeling unappreciated in Canada. World men's figure skating champion Patrick Chan caused a stir at the ISU Grand Prix Final this week for comments he made about feeling unappreciated in Canada.

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There can be no mistaking the fact that Patrick Chan's words ruffled more than a few feathers and illustrated once again that he is still learning to be the honourable champion worthy of our undying loyalty. Most of the time he gets it right. This time he booted it.
Click here to watch Scott Russell's interview with Patrick Chan.

It's strange in sport that sometimes words speak louder than actions.

It's supposed to be the other way around.

So it is that the unfortunate comments made by world champion Patrick Chan to Reuters in a September interview have resonated in Quebec City where the greatest figure skaters on the planet have gathered for the ISU Grand Prix Final.

On day one of competition Chan's ruminations surfaced to overshadow anything that was taking place on the ice.  All of the great jumps, twirls and spins done at incredibly high speeds were absorbed while spectators whispered of Chan's seemingly disloyal discourse on the lack of appreciation he feels from the folks at home.    

In a perverse sort of way the dredging up of this very old news brought a fresh focus to the fascination that Canadians have with their figure skating champions.  Now, at the very least, many more fans of sport in this hockey-crazed country know that the figure skating championships are taking place at all.

Here's the thing. 

There's no doubt that Patrick Chan said what he did.  But what did that amount to?  That he wishes he got more attention in Canada?  That he laments sport beyond hockey not being better supported?  That he's getting in touch with his Chinese heritage?  That his parents have sacrificed a great deal to allow him to compete at the highest level?

All of that is fair comment.  But there can be no mistaking the fact that Chan's words ruffled more than a few feathers and illustrated once again that he is still learning to be the honourable champion worthy of our undying loyalty.  Most of the time he gets it right. 

This time he booted it.

Chan always faces the music


So the only thing you can do is to offer someone who has misspoken the chance to confirm or deny.  And the one thing that you can never criticize Patrick Chan for is failing to face the music.  Not once in his career, win, lose, or confronted with public criticism, has Chan gone and hid in the locker room like myriad professional athletes one encounters.

He always stands in and answers the questions.

"I was born in Canada for a reason," he said when asked if he really wanted to compete for China.  "It was because my parents wanted me to have the freedoms that this country offers."

When asked point blank if he intends to wear the Maple Leaf at the next Olympics in Sochi in 2014, he answered unequivocally.  "I will represent Canada now and until the end of my days."

But as you listen to him speak and never shy away from any query, you come to understand that he is still a kid and very unaffected by the handlers who are, in his case, notably absent.  In other words, with Chan you get up front honesty because there aren't many censors lurking over his shoulder.  Perhaps that's because he's a figure skater and every time he steps on the ice he has to go it alone.  Success or failure rests on his shoulders and therefore he's unafraid to speak his mind.

"Sometimes I just want to get on the rink and be with myself," he says.  "And to skate and to do what I love best."

There is no doubt whatsoever that at this moment in time, Chan is the best there is.  He's demonstrated that he can be the World champion.  He will most likely, should he win this Grand Prix Final, have the inside track on winning the Lou Marsh Award as Canada's athlete of the year.  Now he has to prove to the many Canadians who have followed and supported him that he can do all of this with grace and a touch of diplomacy.

The bottom line is Patrick Chan must convince us that his actions will always speak louder than his words. 

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