With four tight turns in the air and an unwavering landing, Canada's Patrick Chan launched himself into a whole new level of skating and put all the quad questions behind him.
The 19-year-old from Toronto, who was once so vocal in his defence of not having a quad, landed his first quad jump in competition Saturday, propelling him to victory at Skate Canada International in Kingston, Ont., after finishing a disappointing fourth in the short program.
"Finally," Chan said with a grin of sheer relief. "After I landed it it was pretty exhilarating. It's quite a jump, it's a whirlwind. And the audience was really loud [afterward], I couldn't hear my music for the first few seconds. It was a really cool feeling to finally put it out there in competition, especially in Canada."
Chan, who captured two world silver medals without the four-revolution jump, landed a quad toe loop that former Canadian star Brian Orser deemed "textbook" to open his program. He promptly fell on his triple Axel, thrown off-kilter, he said, by the raucous cheer of the crowd and his own adrenalin surge of excitement.
Still, his final score of 239.52 points — including the highest jump mark of the night for his quad -- was good enough for gold. Japan's Nobunari Oda was second with a score of 236.52 while American Adam Rippon placed third with 233.04. Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., second after the short program, fell to fourth place.
A quad controversy has raged in men's skating for the past few years and Chan has steadfastly argued for the no-quad side, drawing the ire of skaters such as Russian Evgeni Plushenko and Frenchman Brian Joubert, in his belief that skaters don't need them to be successful.
American Evan Lysacek won gold at the Vancouver Olympics without attempting a quad, and the results drew scathing words from Plushenko, Joubert and even former Canadian star Elvis Stojko.
Chan has succeeded at the world level thanks to his exquisite footwork and spins and interpretation of the music. The quad was the only element missing from his repertoire.
'A lot of excitement and a lot of tension'
"Now that I have the quad in, I feel like I've added another part to my inventory," he said. "Doing a quad brings it to another level. It's a different feeling when you do a quad in your program, it brings a lot of excitement and a lot of tension."
Michael Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high performance director, said Chan knew he could only take his score so far without the quad, but that adding it to the program before it was perfected would be too costly.
"Last year, when a lot of the talk about the quad was happening, his quad was not at the point where he could put it in a competition," Slipchuk said. "Even when people said you needed it, if you don't have it, you can't put it in. Now that he has it, it does put you at a different level. Guys who go out and just do triple Axels, they're a bit behind you. You still have to fill in with the rest of the stuff to make it work well."
Chan is fortunate to have the rest of the stuff. It was evident Saturday in his final twisting and turning step sequence that covered the length of the ice and built in intensity to the final bars of his music from Phantom of the Opera and brought the crowd at the K-Rock Centre to its feet.
Afterward, as Chan blotted away the sweat pouring down his cheeks, he said he was simply relieved to finally put the quad questions to rest.
"I didn't want it to be a three-competition drought of not doing a quad, that would have been kind of embarrassing," he said. "So to get it over with and done is good to know and now I can go into my next competition knowing I've done it already in Skate Canada.
And if the future looked bright for the Canadian teen before, it turned a few shades brighter Saturday, Slipchuk said, based on the fact that Chan's performances here were far from perfect. There's still plenty of room for improvement.
"If we just focus on what he did here, he posted the top score of the year so far, and he had four falls [over the short and long program] and a couple of missed elements," said Slipchuk.
Earlier in the day, Canada's Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch skated away with the pairs silver medal less than a week after they were added to the lineup as an injury replacement.
Fellow Canadians Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers took the bronze. Russians Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze won gold.