SPORTS

Canadian star Patrick Chan hopes string of men's skating success continues

01/19/2012 05:05 EST | Updated 03/20/2012 05:12 EDT
MONCTON, N.B. - He may be barely 21, but Patrick Chan believes it's never too early to inspire the figure skaters coming up behind him.

That's why the Toronto skater lingered in the locker-room after practice Thursday, chatting with his younger competitors at the Canadian figure skating championships.

Chan is Canada's latest great male skater in a long list that includes Brian Orser, Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko and Jeffrey Buttle. He'd like to do his part to make sure that string of Canuck success continues when he eventually walks away from the sport.

"I feel responsible. I don't want to just walk out of here and forget it, just take my titles. I want to leave a positive mark on figure skating, especially figure skating in Canada," Chan said.

"Now that I'm getting more mature and we're getting closer to Sochi (2014 Olympics), it's important for me to keep an eye on how our skaters are looking and who are the potential skaters that will represent Canada in Sochi or the next Olympics in Korea (2018 in South Korea)."

The defending world champion and triple world-record holder will be gunning for his fifth senior men's title at the Canadian championships this weekend, the traditional start to the second half of the season.

The men's field boasts several promising young skaters, including 18-year-old Andrei Rogozine, the defending world junior champion, and Nam Nguyen, who last year — at the age of 12 — became the youngest skater ever to win the Canadian junior title.

Chan, meanwhile, went undefeated on the Grand Prix circuit this past fall, but his performances were far from flawless. He said he was lacking the same kind of confidence he carried into the world championships last April.

"This is like the hangover year after the Stanley Cup," he explained. "Some teams have trouble coming back.''

Chan, who skates his short program Saturday and the long program Sunday at Moncton Coliseum, said he's been playing catchup since taking a "big break mentally" from the sport following his world win.

"It's like you haven't driven standard in a long time and then you sit in a manual car and it's a sports car and then trying to drive it again. That's the feeling," Chan said, on getting back on the competitive ice this season. "You have to play with the clutch, you've got to figure out where you are and how the shifting works.

"It's just finding my bearing, my space, where I am in my new car."

The skater finally feels like himself again, and ready to defend his world title in March in Nice, France. Part of leaving a lasting impression on Canadian skating, Chan believes, is winning multiple world titles, and he's often said he aspires to be as dominant in skating as Roger Federer was in tennis or Tiger Woods in golf.

"I think it's my biggest goal," Chan said. "I think it's important for Canada as well as figure skating, the sport itself, to have a dominant skater, a repeat title, a repeat world championship title, those things really make a mark on the sport and really make it stand out in the world of sports."

Keeping a healthy distance ahead of his competitors also gives him some breathing room.

"The reason I want to keep the streak going is so that I can stay relaxed and I have nothing to stress over in training or competition, I get to really enjoy doing what I do," Chan said.

Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, meanwhile, are striving to get back to the top of the podium after winning silver at last year's world championships. It was their only full competition as Virtue spent most of the season recovering from leg surgery.

The 22-year-old Virtue, from London, Ont., and 24-year-old Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., missed the Canadian championships for the first time since they made their national debut in 2000 in the novice division.

"It's a really fun competition for Tessa and I," Moir said. "Nationals is always one of our favourites because it's in our country.

"There's always great fans. We're going to have to skate well. It's a great, very deep dance event and we're focused on our job this week."

The 2010 Olympic champs open with the short dance Friday, followed by the free dance Saturday.

"It's always fun and nerve-wracking skating in front of the Canadian crowd, so it puts a little bit of pressure on us," Virtue said. "That's good for us, and I think it's a great stepping stone heading into Four Continents and worlds."

The 7,200-seat Coliseum is normally home to the QMJHL's Moncton Wildcats.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version contained the incorrect year of Moir and Virtue's Olympic victory.

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