Patrick Chan has squeezed in as much fun as possible in the year since he left the Sochi Olympics with a silver medal and shattered dreams. He's been to Japan, criss-crossed the U.S., and even taken in some NHL playoff action.
Now, he's ready to come back.
The three-time world champion figure skater from Toronto, who took a year off to contemplate his future, will throw himself back into full-time training this summer and return to competing next fall.
"It is something I miss," said Chan on the competitive pressure. "Definitely watching. . . it's tough to watch, to not have any control. Or to not be in those moments, moments of success and recognition. It's different. Skating in shows you get recognized, but it's different. You're nervous because you're excited to perform and show off. Whereas in competition, it's more about wanting to do well for the judges."
The 24-year-old will skate in Canada's Stars on Ice tour, which opens May 1 in Halifax. Then he'll take a surfing vacation in Costa Rica before heading back to his training base in Detroit to train with coach Kathy Johnson.
Chan said stepping away this season has been everything he'd hoped for.
"And more so. There's definitely at the beginning of the year, there were moments where I was like 'Ooh, I don't know if I want to do this. I don't know if I made the right choice,"' Chan said in a phone interview from Minden, Ont., where he was practising for Stars on Ice.
Squeezing in vacation time
"But then by mid-season to now, I'm completely happy and almost running out of time to do things I wanted to do. It's been great, it's been really, really great. I'm squeezing in every little bit of vacation time that I have, until I don't have any for awhile."
Chan had a glorious opportunity to become Canada's first Olympic men's champion in Sochi, but struggled in his free skate to finish behind Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu. At a news conference the next morning, he said it may "be years" before he went to bed without thinking about what he'd lost. It was a long while before he could bring himself to watch the tape of his skate.
These past few months, he's toured Japan and the United States with Stars on Ice, wrapping up recently in Seattle. He made the short trip from there to Vancouver for the Canucks' playoff opener against Calgary.
He watched the ice dance — and little else — at last month's world figure skating championships in China, where his close friends and fellow Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje won bronze. He skimmed through replays of the men's event, won by Spain's Javier Fernandez.
"I've been following everyone throughout the season so I know what their programs look like," he said on the men.
Will fill huge hole
His return will fill a huge hole in the Canadian team. Nam Nguyen of Toronto was Canada's top men's skater this season, finishing fifth at the world championships. But at 16, he's not ready to step into Chan's shoes yet.
Chan will revamp his Chopin long program to music that helped him win gold at the 2014 Japan Open. He plans to return to a more "upbeat and fun" short program, with lyrics, a big departure from his serious Rachmaninoff program from the 2014 Olympic season.
"It's a comfort zone for me, that (fun) theme of program. So, I think that's great to kick off the first season back after a year off," Chan said.
The seven-time Canadian champion hopes to approach competing much like he has his show performances.
"I was in the tunnel (waiting to skate) in some of the cities in the U.S., where I had some family, and course I'm nervous, I want to do well for them. So I paid attention to that, like 'Maybe I should treat competition like this too,"' Chan said. "I paid attention to how I handled that moment. Because when the music started I would lose all the nervousness and just get excited to skate and express and move and jump, and to get to the main cool part of the song. . .just the little things like that."
Stars on Ice will travel to 12 Canadian cities, culminating in Vancouver on May 21.