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Patrick Chan wins silver medal at Winter Games after disappointing performance

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Canada's Patrick Chan reacts at the end of his men's free program in the figure skating competition at the Sochi Winter Olympics Friday, February 14, 2014 in Sochi. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

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Canada's Patrick Chan reacts at the end of his men's free program in the figure skating competition at the Sochi Winter Olympics Friday, February 14, 2014 in Sochi. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

SOCHI, Russia - Patrick Chan had four-and-a-half minutes to rewrite the history of Olympic men's figure skating in Canada.

Instead, he'll be added to the list of so many Canadian greats who'll think back on the Olympic Games with regret.

The 23-year-old from Toronto, the most dominant skater on the planet for the past three years, wound up with the silver medal at the Sochi Olympics on Saturday behind Yuzuru Hanyu on a night the Japanese teenager left the door wide open for gold.

"I had that gold medal in front of me and I just didn't grasp it," Chan said. "And it's tough. It's tough."

Neither Hanyu nor Chan skated even close to their best. Hanyu, a 19-year-old who lives and trains in Toronto with coach Brian Orser, fell on his opening quad Salchow, then fell again and thought all hope was lost.

"No, I was so sad," Hanyu said.

Chan skated directly after Hanyu, with an Olympic-sized opportunity to do what such greats as Donald Jackson, Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko and Hanyu's own coach, Orser, could not — become the first Canadian man to win Olympic gold.

But after opening with a beautiful quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination, his program completely unravelled. He put a hand down on his second quad toe loop, then touched both hands to the ice in his over-rotated triple Axel.

By the final moments of his normally elegant program to Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," he was sloppy on a spin he could practically do in his sleep, and was even a touch behind on his music.

His first words to the camera after seeing his score: "I love you guys. I'm sorry."

Hanyu scored 280.09 — well off Chan's world record of 295.27 the Canadian set in December — to become Japan's first Olympic gold medallist in the discipline. Chan finished with 275.62. Denis Ten of Kazakhstan won bronze with a total score of 255.10.

"When it ended, at first I was relieved to get that weight lifted off my shoulders," Chan said. "Because it's been a weight on my shoulders for four years and carrying that weight and expectations, I put it on myself these past four years and set this goal for myself."

Chan has had his sights set squarely on Olympic gold since he finished fifth at the 2010 Vancouver Games and for three years there has been no surer bet on two skates than the Canadian.

Already one of the world's best at combining both the technical and artistic sides of the sport, he added the quad jump to his arsenal after Vancouver and for the better part of three years virtually no one came near him.

Chan, who leaves with two silver medals after helping Canada finish second behind Russia in the team event earlier in the Games, said he won't let what happened here define his career.

"Nobody can take away the fact that I've had an amazing journey as a figure skater," said Chan."You can't define an athlete by one day. I look at the huge exhilaration and happy times of me standing on top of the podium many many times throughout my career.

"Just because I'm standing on the one beside today doesn't change the fact that I still believe I'm the very best in the world."

Canadian men have won 14 world titles combined. The previous Canadian Olympic medallist was Jeffrey Buttle who won bronze in Turin in 2006.

"I absolutely feel for Patrick, of course," Orser said afterward. "It is bittersweet, for me I wanted them all to skate great, and if Patrick was on top, we'd finally have a Canadian who was Olympic champion and I could take a lot of pride in that.

"I have my skaters and my responsibility for them."

Orser, who also coached 2010 Olympic champ Kim Yu-na, was asked about being a Canadian coaching the Olympic champion who beat a Canadian.

"Patrick's a great guy too," he said. "But I do my job, and these guys come to me, the Kim Yu-na's and the Yuzu's. . . I just love skating, and I just love to train them and see them do their best.

"This is not about me getting medals, this about them getting medals."

In March 2011, Hanyu was training in his hometown Sendai when the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit, sending him literally running from his rink. Both his home and the rink were damaged and he and his mother moved to Toronto shortly after to train with Orser.

"Maybe I am gold medallist of the Olympics, but this medal can't help out with the recovery in that region," Hanyu said through an interpreter.

Japan's newest star hopes by being Olympic champion he'll be able to help going forward.

Hanyu had set a world short-program scoring record the previous night of 101.45, making him the first man in history to break the 100-point barrier.

After Saturday's error-filled skate, he bent down and buried his head in his hands, believing he'd just given away that Olympic gold.

"Negative feelings were brewing inside of me," Hanyu said. "It was difficult to keep with the performance with all that in my head.

"I thought the gold medal was not in my hands."

Chan hasn't said whether he'll retire after this season, and wouldn't commit Saturday night to the next month's world championships.

It's unlikely he'll stick around for another Olympics though.

"We've been here before haven't we?" said Skate Canada's high performance director Mike Slipchuk. "I've been through this before with four of our men through my career.

"But most of the most recognized champions never won an Olympic Games, Brian, Kurt, Elvis, And in the U.S. Michelle Kwan, Todd Eldredge. . . the list goes on. Olympic Games are one chance every four years and you do everything you can to prepare. You go out and it's a sport, it's still down to four and a half minutes.

"I just feel bad for Patrick," Slipchuk added. "He wanted to go out and have that Olympic skate you dream of."

Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., who was hampered by a poor short program, finished 15th with 222.23 points.

Reynolds landed his three quad attempts Saturday — but didn't receive full marks as they were under-rotated — a night after he fell twice in the short, knocking him well out of contention. The 23-year-old, who was also part of the squad that won silver in the new team event, called his Olympics "bittersweet."

"It was a little bit of redemption after what happened (Thursday)," Reynolds said. "It was just incredibly difficult after the crushing disappointment of not being able to perform at my best yesterday, and to have my medal hopes dashed after the first jump of my short program."

Note to readers: RECASTS, updates; ADDS byline.

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