World figure skating championships: Nam Nguyen facing less stress
Named to Canadian team as fill-in despite disappointing season
When Nam Nguyen was told to report to coach Brian Orser's office at the Toronto Cricket Club a couple of weeks ago, his first thought was that he was in trouble.
"I was panicking," Nguyen said.
Instead, Orser and Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high performance director, had called him in to tell him he'd been added to the team for this week's world figure skating championships in Boston.
Liam Firus, a 23-year-old from North Vancouver, B.C., had withdrawn from the squad so Nguyen could compete, an unselfish move that he explained was "vital for our team."
The world championships determine how many skaters, between one and three, a country can enter in each discipline at next year's event, which in turn determines how many can compete at the 2018 Olympics.
Nguyen, a 17-year-old from Toronto, has had a rough season as he continues to adjust to his growing body. But he's had better international results than Firus, including a fifth-place finish at last year's world championships.
"[Firus] messaged me a few days ago, wishing me luck and enjoy the experience," Nguyen said. "When I heard I was going to worlds, I messaged him later that night to say thank you, best of luck … in the rest of your training and to get ready for next season."
Nguyen, who won the world junior title in 2014, finished fourth with an uncharacteristically rocky performance at the Canadian championships in January. As the defending champion in a field that once again featured Patrick Chan, back after a season's hiatus, Nguyen was feeling the pressure.
Growth an obstacle
But the bigger issue has been his growing. He's sprouted up four inches since last spring to five foot 10 after growing six inches the previous year.
"You go from a young man to a man and it's not so much the height but your shoulders get broader … just a different kind of weight," Orser said. "It's always an adjustment."
I'm not feeling stress as much as nationals so I'm just going in here with nothing in my head and just doing the best I can.- Canada's Nam Nguyen on his outlook for this week's figure skating worlds
Earlier this season, Nguyen talked about the tough days, and admitted there were a few times he felt like quitting. But moments after stepping off the practice ice here, the young skater said he's feeling significantly better.
"There's less pressure on me, and I'm not feeling stress as much as nationals so I'm just going in here with nothing in my head and just doing the best I can," he said.
It helped that he was still training anyway, for next month's Team Challenge Cup.
"And especially when I was told I was going to worlds, I trained extra, extra hard … when I got called for worlds, it was full steam ahead," Nguyen said.
Canada can earn three spots in men's singles at next year's world championships if the total finish by Chan and Nguyen in Boston adds to up less than 13, if Chan won gold and Nguyen was 11th, or Chan was fifth and Nguyen sixth.
Nguyen isn't going to concern himself with the responsibility of qualifying spots.
"If I focus on those kinds of things it will mess with my head a little bit," he said. "So it's very important for me to just focus on my own skating, and if I skate well, hopefully we will be able to maintain two [spots] or gain three."
Chan and Nguyen will compete in the men's short program Wednesday at TD Garden at 6:15 p.m. ET and will be live streamed at CBCSports.ca.