Patrick Chan scores record 98.37
LONDON, Ontario -- Patrick Chan was miserable.
The two-time world champion would wake up in the morning and dread the thought of going to the rink. It wasn't the work he minded; he's spent most of his life skating because he loves it. But something was wrong -- seriously wrong -- and he had to do something to fix it.
"The whole season was hard," he said. "I would show up at competition ready and as trained as I could be, but I just couldn't perform the program I wanted to."
So when those closest to him suggested a change of scenery might do him good, he embraced the drastic move. He left his house, his car and his life in Colorado Springs, Colo., and relocated to Detroit for the last three weeks. And just like that, his funk lifted.
Chan put on a performance for the ages at the World Figure Skating Championships on Wednesday night, shattering the record for the short program with his sublime elegance. His score of 98.37 was more than three points better than the previous mark, set earlier this season by Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu at the NHK Trophy.
When Chan's music finished, the Canadian shook his fists in triumphs and blew kisses to the standing, adoring crowd.
"Today I was more excited -- not about being first after the short or the new highest score of the short program, I was more excited about finally putting out a good program," he said. "Going into my last spin, I just felt this surge from the ice going through my boot and through my body. I was so excited because I finally did it on the day that counts in front of my home crowd.
"The world championships will never be this amazing during the rest of my career," he added.
It certainly will be tough to top what was a delightfully wild night.
European champion Javier Fernandez and Hanyu, last year's bronze medalist, were expected to challenge Chan for the title. But they didn't even make the top five after flawed programs, upstaged by Denis Ten, who's never finished better than seventh at a worlds or Olympics, and Kevin Reynolds, previously known only as one of the "other Canadians."
"I am very happy with my performance and, of course, I am very surprised like everyone that I finished second today," Ten said.
The free skate is Friday. Earlier Wednesday, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov edged Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford in the pairs short program.
Chan has dominated men's skating since the Vancouver Olympics with his unique blend of athleticism and artistry. But the atmosphere at his rink in Colorado hasn't been the same since he split with longtime coach Christy Krall following last year's worlds, and it was clear early in the season that something was amiss. He lost his first competition in two years, coming second to Fernandez at Skate Canada, then finished third at the Grand Prix Final.
"I am very much a skater that feeds off other skaters and from the environment that I am in," he said. "If I feel that I do not get the necessary support, than my training suffers."
Chan hasn't decided if he'll make his move to Detroit permanent, but it is clear the new address agrees with him. He had the audience spellbound Wednesday night, the whispered carvings of his edges the only sound in the arena.
He uses his blades as an artist does a brush, turning an ice rink into a colorful canvas. He doesn't skate to the music so much as he is possessed by it, his body becoming an instrument.
"I was able to enjoy the performance from the beginning to the end," Reynolds said. "You could feel the audience getting into it and it was quite something to see."
The same could be said for Ten.
Ten was a dismal 12th just last month at Four Continents -- an event that doesn't include the Europeans. Whatever he did since then, he should bottle and sell to figure skaters and their coaches, because he was electrifying Wednesday night.
His opening quad toe loop was beautiful, and the program only got better from there. Not even the judges could find errors, giving him the maximum level fours on all of his spins and footwork. He also had positive grades of execution on all of his jumps.
But what made his program so memorable was his perfect portrayal of the Oscar-winning movie, "The Artist." He looked like a silent film star, pantomiming throughout his program. The only time he failed to show expression was when his marks were announced.
"If this season was frustrating for Patrick, for me it was a complete disaster," Ten said. "I had so many problems it was hard mentally and physically to train and skate well. I did not have enough confidence at each competition I did because there wasn't even one when something wasn't hurting. I would not say that I am fully recovered ... but at the same time, I am happy with my shape. I have never been as strong as today."
Like all the other Canadian men, Reynolds has been lost in Chan's shadow. But he won't be any more after landing two quadruple jumps in his short program -- a feat many men don't even try in the free skate.
Granted, the second, a quad toe loop, was two-footed. But the judges gave him credit for it, hammering him on the execution grade instead.
"I need to keep momentum going," Reynolds said.
The U.S. hopes of regaining a third spot for the Sochi Olympics are all but over after Ross Miner fell on his quadruple salchow and finished 14th. U.S. champion Max Aaron was eighth, but he and Miner need a combined placement of 13 or better to earn a third spot for Sochi.