Road To The Olympic Games

Patrick Chan isn't far from greatness

Patrick Chan seems to realize now what he needs to become an Olympic champion. Another Olympics.

Young star needs to look at adding quad to brilliant performance

Patrick Chan seems to realize now what he needs to become an Olympic figure-skating champion.

Another Olympics.

The 19-year-old Canadian — among the youngest top men's competitors this country has sent into the emotional cauldron that is the Winter Games — had mentioned back at the Skate Canada event a few months ago he wasn't sure if he would hang around for the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

He seemed to be hinting that, you know, he might well be coming back from Vancouver with a gold medal and that could wrap up his career.

But slotted into fifth place this week after a bumpy short program and an artistically beautiful but imperfect free skate, Chan seems to be looking at things differently now.

"I wish I had one more Olympics under my belt before I came here. This is kind of an overwhelming first Olympics," Chan said after it was all over. "In the end, that's why I'm looking at Sochi and see how that goes, but it's a long way.

"But I overcame this — this is like Mount Everest. So if I overcame this, I can overcome anything else."

It's hard, in the disappointment of what we can now realize were over-hyped Olympic dreams unrealized on home ice, to remember how far this young man has come.

Less than eight years ago he was the pre-novice champ, then novice victor a year later and junior winner in 2005. From there it was only four years to a world silver medal in Los Angeles and he would be going to Vancouver still a teenager.

Brian Orser was 22 when he made his first Olympic trip for Canada in 1984 (his first silver). Kurt Browning was eighth in Calgary four years later at 21.

Elvis Stojko won a silver at Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994 when he was 21.

Comparison works well 

Chan's path to becoming a Canadian figure skating immortal now seems clear, given the events of Thursday night's men's final.

And the tipoff may be in ignoring (for now) the ongoing discussion about getting the young man a quad jump, to go with his immense presentation skills and beautiful pure skating ability. Instead, a quick comparison between Chan and newly crowned gold medallist Evan Lysacek seems in order.

With no bobbles at all, the American's executed elements score (all the jumps and steps and spins) was 84.57 to Chan's 79.30. But the potential scores, if both had gone clean, were not that far off each other.

In program components (choreography, pretty footwork, performance, interpretation, etc.), Lysacek was only 8-10ths better than the Canadian. And Chan was ahead on skating skills.

Now the quad.

There will be a lot of chattering over the next months about how Lysacek, the defending world champ, beat the jumping machine Evgeni Plushenko, without a quadruple jump. Eight triples, to be sure, but no quad.

Plushenko was complaining afterward that under the old scoring system he would have won this easily, but this isn't 2002. And he didn't prevail, so there.

So, no quad for Chan?

Well, imagine that gorgeous, interpretive skater arriving in Russia four years from now as the best pure performer in the world, with more maturity, more experience, less pressure because he isn't at home and with a quad to boot?

It's enough to send shivers down a figure-skating fan's spine. Especially one old enough to remember 40 years of frustration for Canadian male skaters at the Olympic Games.

Corrections

  • Brian Orser was 22 when he made his first Olympic trip for Canada in 1984, not 1994, as stated in an earlier version of this story. Similarly, Elvis Stojko won a silver at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, not the 1992 Games in Albertville, France. Finally, Evan Lysacek's executed elements score was 84.57 to Patrick Chan's 79.30, not the reverse as originally reported.
    Feb 19, 2010 2:28 PM ET