Canada's Chan crowned world figure skating champion
When he turned his final rotation, stuck an emphatic toe pick in the ice, and the music came to a stop, Patrick Chan looked up to the rafters hopefully.
He needn't have worried.
The 20-year-old from Toronto claimed his first world figure skating title Thursday in Moscow, and rewrote the sport's record book in the process. His margin of victory was so large that one skating official compared it to winning the 100 metres by more than a second.
"I think I was just a little more shocked than anything," said Chan, a big bouquet of flowers dangling from one hand. "I knew if I skated well enough I would be able to hold the lead so I'm so happy that it turned out well. It's surreal, it's honestly surreal."
Chan penned his name to all three world records, scoring 187.96 points for his long program for 280.98 points overall, a day after he smashed the world mark for the short program that had given him a near-insurmountable lead.
"I hoped I could get 300," Chan joked. "Maybe next time."
Dressed in a smart paisley vest under a black tuxedo jacket, and skating to music from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, Chan refused to play it safe. He executed two quadruple jumps in the opening 40 seconds of the four-and-a-half minute program.
"I didn't change my program, which is very important to me," said Chan, who'd twice been second at the world championships. "I did have some doubts in my mind if I should, but I said 'No, no, no,' because I've been training this program all season long. I'm very proud of myself to be able to do two quads in the opening of the program."
Takahiko Kozuka of Japan scored 258.41 points to take the silver, while 17-year-old crowd favourite Artur Gachinski of Russia won the bronze with 241.86 points in a thrilling first event of a championship that was in jeopardy of even happening only a month ago.
Moscow's Megasport Arena was a last-minute substitute host for the event, which was delayed more than a month and relocated after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Chan's expressive long program, which builds amid crashing cymbals and blaring horns over the final dramatic minute, wasn't as picture perfect as the short program. He had to fight to hold onto the landing on the first quad jump, and then wobbled out of a triple Axel.
But his elegant skating and exquisite spins — coupled with the two quads, a jump he only mastered prior to this season — easily made Chan the class of the field.
"It's like Tiger Woods at Augusta, the years he was miles ahead of the field," said Skate Canada's high performance director Mike Slipchuk. "He controlled his destiny and if he goes out and does what he can do on an even keel, he's going to be hard to beat, let alone with a lead."
Chan's world title was No. 12 for Canadian men in world championship history, vaulting him into lofty company with the likes of Brian Orser, Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko, and most recently, Jeffrey Buttle in 2008.
The young skater made a bold statement heading into these world championships, that he wants to be what Roger Federer has been to tennis, or Woods to golf — he wants to dominate the event for years to come.
"I believe this is a stepping stone to greater things hopefully," Chan said.
"Win another world title, and if I stay healthy and if I still love the sport, hopefully do the same thing at the Olympics," said Chan. "But one thing at a time."
Chan hasn't committed to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but said Thursday that "the way things have worked this week, it's promising for me to go."
Chan was a disappointing fifth at the Vancouver Olympics, but his coach Christy Krall said he was at about 60 per cent of what he was capable of doing.
"He had to have a year to experience that, unless you're very prepared and you've done this over and over, things don't just fall into your lap," Krall said.
His performance under pressure, holding onto his landing on that quad that threatened to get away, was proof of how far he's come.
"The whole time going into my second quad, I was thinking, how did I do that [first quad]? I felt really off," he said. "Christy now calls me 'Bob,' I'm like a bob in the water, you always find how to stay straight in the air.
"I'm very proud of myself, that was a big goal this year for me, to find my feet no matter what."
Japan's Daisuke Takahashi, who held the previous world records for overall score (264.41) and long program (175.84) set at the 2008 Four Continents championships, finished fifth Thursday. The 2010 world champion and Olympic bronze medallist had problems with a loose screw in his skate that forced him to pull out of his first jump. Takahashi had to head to the boards for a quick repair before a restart.
His wasn't the only mishap. Former world champion Brian Joubert slashed open his hand en route to finishing eighth, leaving drops of blood about the size of a loonie splattered all over centre ice.
Kozuka, meanwhile, was thrilled to finish in the medals saying he hopes his performance can bring some joy to beleaguered Japan. The 22-year-old said he was moved by the event's opening ceremonies, which featured a tribute to the Japanese people with sombre lighting and bright pink cherry blossoms.
"I saw how with warm thoughts and feelings the Russian people have embraced the Japanese," Kozuka said. "I was overwhelmed by that wonderful welcome that you have provided to us."