Road To The Olympic Games

Olympics (Sochi - old)

Patrick Chan spends off-season at training base

Patrick Chan has his sights set squarely on claiming Canada's first Olympic men's singles gold medal in Sochi, and the figure skater decided to spend the summer on the rink.

Figure skater seeks Olympic gold in Sochi

Patrick Chan at Skate Canada's summer skate in Markham, Ont. on Sunday August 18 , 2013. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

The only scenery Patrick Chan saw this past summer was along the freeway between Colorado Springs and Detroit.

For once, the three-time world figure skating champion, global traveller — and occasional adventure seeker — stayed put.

The 22-year-old from Toronto has his sights set squarely on claiming Canada's first Olympic men's singles gold medal in Sochi, and he and coach Kathy Johnston made a very deliberate decision to spend the summer at the rink at Chan's training base in Detroit.

No gambling in Las Vegas. No visiting family in China. No surfing in Hawaii. 

"Everyone has asked me 'Where'd you go this time?' I didn't go anywhere," Chan said at a Skate Canada training camp Thursday. "This isn't the year to go to somewhere exotic because there's always that in the off-season after the Olympics.

"Kathy was smart in telling me not to go anywhere, to avoid any kinds of accidents that could happen and just stay focused on moving in, getting organized and settled so when I go to training, I'm not overwhelmed with problems I have to deal with off the ice and I'm organized on the ice."

Three years ago, Chan showed up at the same September training camp black and blue after taking a serious spill off his mountain bike.

His biggest adventure this summer was packing up his home in Colorado Springs, Colo., and driving to Detroit. He spent the couple of weeks leading up to last spring's world championships training in Detroit, saying he hadn't felt happy training in Colorado for a while. He made the switch permanent after he captured his third consecutive world title.

New home

"It's great to have that kind of environment that I haven't been in the past two years," Chan said. "I was really glad I was able to find Detroit right before worlds, and I'm really lucky it turned out the way it did."

Chan trains at the Detroit Skating Club, which is also the training base of Canadian men's singles skater Elladj Balde and Canadian ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

"It's been great for him," Johnston said of Chan's move east. "He has his own place, he's very responsible for himself, cooks his own meals, buys his own groceries. That maturing off the ice contributes to that growth and maturing on the ice.

"He has a bunch of friends, he works on his car, he does normal young-guy activities. and he's loving it. He's having fun and enjoying his friends, and it's a great balance to the hard work. Because there really is no-one who works harder than Patrick."

Unlike previous summers, Chan hasn't had to learn any new jumps. He didn't add anything new technically to his programs for the Olympic season.

"This isn't the year to do that. That was the strategy as well, not to try anything new and brash, because there's no need for it," Chan said. "The two quads are solid, they weren't solid last year honestly. Even though I landed it almost every competition, I didn't feel confident about it. I didn't know going into it that I could land it. This year I'm starting to feel that a little more."

While he wouldn't need them for marks, he said he may add a second triple Axel "just for kicks," or a quad Salchow "as a party trick."

The camp at Mississauga's Hershey Centre is the traditional kick-off to the competitive season, and allows the Canadian skaters the receive feedback on their programs from coaches and judges.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir had their own camera crew following them around, filming for a six-part reality series on Canada's Olympic ice dance champions that will air on the W Network in January.

"It's a fly-on-the-wall type series," Moir said. "People are going to really see what we go through day to day. So much is (usually) just seeing us in makeup and sparkles. So you'll see me when my hair doesn't look this pretty, right?"

Virtue and Moir said they don't mind the added attention.

"The neat thing is we get to share so much of our story with viewers and with family and friends and fans, and hopefully it's something that people find interesting," Virtue said. "I know when I see other athletes I love seeing the behind-the-scenes things, I love seeing the highs and the lows, and we've been through so much together, there is a lot of that. You see the tears and you see the laughing fits."

The reality series, Moir added, will be a nice keepsake of what will likely be their last season skating competitively.

"This is a great point in our career," Moir said. "We're healthy athletes and we're going to another Olympic Games to defend our title. It's a great part of our lives, let alone our careers.

"Being able to document that is fun for us to look back on."

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