Man on a mission
Patrick Chan is trying to tame the triple Axel ahead of the Canadian figure skating championship
Most teenagers take it easy during the Christmas holidays, making use of the time away from school to rest and recuperate and reconnect with family and friends.
Patrick Chan spent the holiday season in Florida, far from his home in Toronto, trying to master the triple Axel.
Chan, who turned 18 on New Year's Eve, was riding high ahead of the Grand Prix final in South Korea in mid-December, having entered the competition as the top seed on the strength of two Grand Prix victories earlier in the season.
But the reigning Canadian champion came crashing down to earth in Goyang City, as sat in sixth place after falling on his opening triple Axel and on the triple Lutz in his short program.
Chan eventually moved up to fifth in the final standings after chief rival Brian Joubert of France dropped out with a back injury.
The Canadian didn't land a single triple Axel in the South Korean competition, and was humbled by his poor showing, calling the overall experience "a punch in the ego."
During the holiday season, Chan spent long hours on the ice, dedicating his training sessions with coach Don Laws to mastering the triple Axel ahead of this week's Canadian figure skating championship in Saskatoon.
"We're practising it [the triple Axel]. In a way, we're trying to tame it. I'm solving some difficulties with it," Chan told reporters during a recent conference call.
Chan stopped short of saying he can nail the triple Axel, but it is clear that despite his hard work, he still hasn't got it.
But Chan remains upbeat and not overly concerned about his struggles with the triple Axel, pointing out that he went through something similar with the triple Lutz.
"I had the same trouble when I was learning the Lutz, but if you look at it now, it's pretty consistent. I'd give it a nine out of 10, so I think it's just a matter of time [for the triple Axel]," Chan said.
A month has passed since the Grand Prix final, allowing Chan to adopt a philosophical attitude about South Korea.
"We all have to go through those kinds of moments, we all have those up-and-down days," offered the Canadian. "After the long program, I wasn't upset with the result. I was just trying to keep a cool head throughout the week."
Chan's performance in Saskatoon later this week could prove pivotal to his overall development, according to four-time Canadian and world champion Kurt Browning.
"You would think that anyone who has won two Grand Prix [events] this year against pretty good competition would have some momentum. I'm not sure he feels that way," Browning told CBC Sports. "The triple Axel has not been in his back pocket, he hasn't got it, he hasn't been able to deliver it in a competition and I hope that doesn't get into his head too much.
"At the nationals, he needs to get a few [triple Axels] out there and get his momentum back."
Browning may think Chan doesn't have any momentum going into the nationals, but the reigning Canadian champion doesn't see it that way.
"I was the only men's singles Canadian skater to be in the Grand Prix finals. The more I go to these competitions, the more experience and confidence I gain. I think that'll be a big plus when I got to nationals because I'll step on the ice knowing that I have much more experience than the others," Chan explained.
That's not to say he's taking it for granted that he'll be on top of the podium in Saskatoon.
"I just want to go there and treat it like I didn't even win [the Canadian title] last year. People are going to be watching me, but I have to go and show what I have to do. I have to keep focused and not get carried away and remember I'm there to do a job," Chan said.