Road To The Olympic Games

Olympics Winter

Chan runs away with men's skating title

Patrick Chan set a Canadian record on the way to winning gold at the Canadian figure skating championships in London, Ont., on Sunday.

After battling through a lot of adversity this season, Patrick Chan looks like he's got his groove back.

The Toronto native set a Canadian record on the way to winning gold at the Canadian figure skating championships in London, Ont., on Sunday.

Chan's free routine, done to the soundtrack from The Phantom of the Opera, gave him 177.88 points. It was far and away the top score for the men's free skate, giving him a total of 268.02 for the competition to set a Canadian record.

During a tight race for the second and final men's Olympic spot, Vaughn Chipeur emerged with silver, booking his ticket for Vancouver in February.

Chan, 19, who had a big lead after the men's short program on Friday, won his third straight Canadian title. He settled into his routine well on Sunday after over-rotating on his first element, a triple axel, and struggling with the landing on his second, a triple flip-triple toe combination.

Chan received a standing ovation after his program, and looked relieved after he was finished.

"I feel awesome," Chan said afterward.

"I'm really taken aback with everything that's happened here. With all the hardship that I had this season I was able to come through with a good performance here, and to get to put that [Canadian team] jacket on, you start realizing, I'm really going to the Olympics.

"Just really humbled and I'm really happy with the way I performed."

His score was better than Japan's Daisuke Takahashi's world-best 264.41 points in 2008, but won't be recognized internationally. It's well known that marks are normally inflated at national championships by around 10 per cent.

That issue came to the fore on Friday after he scored a whopping 90.14 points in the short program despite several errors.

"Points are points," he said. "The judges did their job and I thank them for what they did."

His score was better than American Jeremy Abbott's gold-medal winning performance score (263.66) at the U.S. figure skating championships in Spokane, Wash., also on Sunday.

"It can't compare, two different judges, U.S. and Canadians," Chan said. "But it really puts me back into focus. I shouldn't celebrate too much, I've got a lot of work to do, because Jeremy's got a bit of a head start."

It's been a tough season so far for the Olympic medal contender.

Disappointing showing

Chan was coming off a disappointing sixth-place showing at Skate Canada in November, the only Grand Prix event he competed in this season, as he had to recover from a torn calf muscle that set him back several weeks in the fall.

Chan also lost his coach, Don Laws, who unexpectedly resigned last week. His new coach is long-time choreographer Lori Nichol.

"I think we set him on a good path," Nichol said. "He's been working hard, he's been working smart, and I think tonight showed the progress of that, and there's a lot of work to do.

"I have no question he'll be totally ready [for the Olympics]."

To get on the podium in Vancouver, Chan knows he will have to improve on the shaky opening in his free skate.

"[Nichol] noticed that when I was skating around waiting for my program, she could see that my blade was a little shaky, and she was exactly right," Chan said. "Sometimes I have that bad tendency to get nervous and my legs aren't really under me and I start shaking.

"We'll look into that, do some exercises, whether it's jumping on the spot or do something else, we'll figure it out and make sure I'm under myself so I don't miss the first three jumps in the program."

Chipeur also had to battle through a tough opening to his routine, done to a blues-jazz medley, to get the coveted second spot. The Lloydminster, Sask., native also had suspect landings on his first two elements before settling into a fine program.

His 143.23 points in the free skate gave him a total of 222.10, 45.92 points behind first-place Chan.

But Chipeur's score was only good for third in the men's free skate, as Kevin Reynolds of North Vancouver, B.C., partly stole the show Sunday with his gutsy program, which included a couple of landed quads — the only ones attempted during the men's skate,

The routine, done to selections from legendary rock band Led Zeppelin, drew a standing ovation from the John Labatt Centre crowd and gave him 149.10 points, elevating him to the bronze-medal spot from fifth.

With files from The Canadian Press