Field of Play: Patrick Chan shines on home ice | Figure Skating | CBC Sports CBC Sports - Sochi 2014

Figure SkatingField of Play: Patrick Chan shines on home ice

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 | 11:12 AM

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Canada's Patrick Chan basked in the cheers from an adoring crowd in London, Ont., after his record-breaking short skate. (Dave Sandford/Getty Images) Canada's Patrick Chan basked in the cheers from an adoring crowd in London, Ont., after his record-breaking short skate. (Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

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Canadian Patrick Chan, who had been enduring a lackluster season until he arrived at the World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ont., seemed reborn in front of the home crowd, delivering a spectacular and record-breaking short skate.
There's just no question that one of the quirky yet endearing things about sport is that playing at home apparently makes a huge difference to performance.

Day 1 of the World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ont., delivered on that theory.

Canadian Patrick Chan, who had been enduring a lackluster season until he arrived here, seemed reborn. The two-time world champion was simply spectacular in his short program

He skated so well that the Budweiser Gardens fell silent for long periods of time. All one could hear was the faint sound of the accompanying music and the confident strokes of his skates.

The result was a score in excess of 98 points -- a world record. But what seemed to matter more was that Chan was back on top as if being driven by his familiar and friendly surroundings.

"If it was my first world championship I might find being at home intimidating," Chan told me the day before his competition. "But it feels like a national championship and I take comfort in the familiarity."

Still, the atmosphere of this place, which is teeming with devoted and knowledgeable figure skating fans, is serving up a lot more than comfort.

Just ask the ice dancers, like hometown heroes Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who will attempt to defend their world title against tough American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

"This is our home, this is our venue," said Moir. "This is where we come on Friday nights to watch the Knights."

Indeed it is a hockey arena, first and foremost, and the home of the London Knights of the OHL, perhaps the most successful junior hockey team in the country.

Translation: it is a place where Canadians regularly gather to celebrate the things they are passionate about. That reality creates a hothouse environment for the sons and daughters of a nation in love with figure skating who will compete before family and friends.

"It happens once in a career to have the world championships in your home rink," figured Kaitlyn Weaver. She struggled mightily to get here with her ice dance partner Andrew Poje. A broken leg late in the season almost scuttled Weaver's plans.

"It was heartbreaking because my first thought when I broke my leg was about missing the world championships in Canada," she recalled. "Before I could even walk again I was dreaming of being here."

The thing is, Weaver is American by birth, but she's blossomed as a skater living and training in nearby Kitchener-Waterloo. So London and this rink feel like home, and in that she sees a chance to excel.


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Home ice has an ability to empower the athletes.

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford took advantage of that when they got the chance on Day 1. The Canadian champions in pairs executed literally everything they set out to do and finished second in the short skate. Intricate side-by-side jumps as well as heart-stopping throws and spins were delivered with beaming smiles and Meagan stomped with glee on the ice when it was all over.

The fans rose to their feet and waved flags in complete adoration. That speaks to the power of home ice.

At the end of the day, Patrick Chan came off the ice and talked about his remarkable performance. He was sweating profusely and his hair was tousled because of the work he had just done.

But he was smiling as if a light had just been turned on in his head.

"I think the word I was looking for about home ice was 'inspiring,'" he said. "It's inspiring to be here."

It seems to me that's at least part of the mystery of home ice. 

It's the field of play we know best, and where magic has the best chance of happening.

Scott Russell is the host of CBC's Sports Weekend. Follow him on Twitter @SportsWkndScott and @TheFieldofPlay.

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