TORONTO – In the midst of a not-so-great season, Patrick Chan went looking for answers in Calgary and Detroit.
The 22-year-old from Toronto will be aiming for his third consecutive world figure skating title this month, but has talked about feeling like an “underdog” for the first time in awhile.
So instead of going to the recent Four Continents championships, Chan went to Calgary to live and train with fitness guru Andy O’Brien, and then to Detroit to soak up the positive training environment of the skaters there.
Operation reboot began in Calgary where Chan spent a week with O’Brien, whose clientele includes hockey superstar Sidney Crosby. The skater has worked with O’Brien before but this time fully immersed himself in that environment, living, eating and working out with the trainer.
“I basically assimilated myself into what I wanted to mimic in my everyday training,” Chan said. “It was perfect.”
Chan, who’s had some disappointing results in this pre-Olympic season, also took the opportunity to pick O’Brien’s brain. After going undefeated for a year and a half, the Canadian finished second at Skate Canada International and then third at the Grand Prix Final.
“It was almost like an all-around opportunity to really talk to him about my season, because this has been a bit of a rough season,” Chan said. “A lot of deep questions, because he’s had a lot of experience with other elite athletes, like Sidney Crosby. I talked to him about dealing with the challenges of trying to repeat as the world champion.
“Overall it was a really good week, a very productive week.”
Then, instead of heading back to his training base in Colorado, the six-time Canadian champion continued “retooling” at the Detroit Skating Club, where he will have spent the final three weeks before the world championships begin March 10.
“I really wanted to stay in the same time zone as where the world championships in London would be,” Chan said on a conference call Friday. “The best place I could train, the most competitive and friendly and (with a) positive environment, where I would be with other skaters, was DSC.”
Chan’s coach Kathy Johnson has also travelled to Detroit, where Chan said the fun training atmosphere that includes Canadian ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, and Canadian singles skater Elladj Balde, has been a big mental boost during a rough season.
“I’m staying with Kaitlyn and Andrew,” he said. “I’m having a great time. It’s a really positive environment, and we’re getting a lot of work done. … Everyone is really nice, and we always have a good time, we really laugh a lot and crack a lot of jokes between the sessions. It’s a very light kind of environment so I’m really happy.”
Chan said he’s considering moving his training base permanently from Colorado Springs to Detroit, but won’t make the decision until after the world championships, and not before he consults Johnson and Skate Canada’s high performance director Mike Slipchuk.
“It’s hard to make the decision final, because I’ve been settled in Colorado, and I’ve kind of made the decision to be in Colorado and buy a house in Colorado,” Chan said. “Next year it’s all about the Olympics, and I don’t want to make a decision where when I go to the Olympics and I’m going to be like ‘Shoot, I should have taken the other option. I would have had different results.’
“I want to make a decision that’s going to be best for me, so I can really skate my best at the Olympics with no weight on my shoulders, and be really happy.”
Chan couldn’t help but notice the banners hanging in honour of Tara Lipinski at the Detroit Skating Club. The American won the 1997 world championships then won gold at the 1998 Olympics.
“I looked at it one day, and thought, ‘You know what? It would be really nice to win a world championships going into the Olympics,’” Chan said. “For me, winning the world championships this year would be great going into the Olympic Games — not just any world championships, but a world championships in London, in Canada, and kind of ride that wave into Sochi so that I can really step on the ice there with a lot of confidence.”
These world championships, Chan said, will be a good test of how well he can recover from a season of struggles.
“(Winning would be) proving to everyone, or proving mostly to myself, that no matter what happens during the season, whether it’s good or bad, when it comes down to the real important events, that I can really pull it out and do what is necessary to win.”