Canada's Patrick Chan took a huge leap of faith that spanned several American states — and it paid off with a world-record performance and a strong first step toward a third consecutive world figure skating title.
The 22-year-old from Toronto shattered the world record in winning the short program at the world championships on Wednesday in London, Ont., three weeks after he packed up and moved from Colorado to Detroit in a seemingly-desperate measure to turn his shaky season around.
It certainly appears to have worked.
"I started from scratch with a clear mind and a clear body — and I think that was a good choice," Chan said.
Chan scored 98.37 points for his elegant performance to music by Rachmaninov, landing a huge quad toe loop in a combination, followed by a clean triple Axel. He had the crowd at Budweiser Gardens on its feet long before he finished the final turn of his last spin.
Chan topped the world mark previously held by Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu by more than three points.
"Exhilirating," said Chan, who shook his fists and then wiped eyes in gleeful disbelief. "I got into my last spin and there was this rush of tingling, just a cold rush through my body. It was amazing, you can only feel that once in a lifetime ... or if you're going to jump off a building."
Denis Ten of Kazakhstan heads into Friday's free skate in second with 91.56 points.
Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., the perennial national runner-up to Chan, is third with 85.16. One of the world's biggest jumpers, Reynolds was the only skater in the field to do two quads — the second one with a wobbly landing — scoring 85.16 points.
His mouth fell open when the score was announced — a look of pure joy that had been absent for most of this season. Chan was second at Skate Canada International, his first loss in a major international event in nearly two years, and then had to settle for bronze at the Grand Prix Final.
Speaking candidly about his mental state this season, Chan said he suddenly felt weary from his 16 years in the sport.
"That was the first weird thing I thought about: 'Why did I hate it so much?"' Chan said. "There was something wrong. It's not that I don't like being active, it's not like I wanted to be a couch potato. I had to be in a better environment."
Upon some heartfelt talks with coach Kathy Johnson, the two decided Detroit was that better environment.
"I for sure had my doubts," he said. "But the reward was very high obviously."
A victory this week would make Chan the first male skater to win three in a row since Russian Alexei Yagudin (1998-2000).
Reynolds, who has long skated in Chan's shadow, wasn't sure he'd even be able to compete here this week after a cyst behind his left knee ruptured 10 days ago.
"So to have a performance like this on home ice, it's just an incredible start to this week. It feels great," Reynolds said.
The 22-year-old did a little improvising in his program to the toe-tapping "Chambermaid Swing," turning what had been a scheduled triple Lutz into a second quad.
"I went for here, it wasn't perfect, but it worth it for the points," Reynolds said.