Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Chan charging to a three-peat

Returning to top form again during worlds as Sochi nears

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LONDON, Ont. -- Canada's Patrick Chan began his charge for his third consecutive world title with a victory in the short program and a world-record score.

The 22-year-old from Toronto, who looked Wednesday as if he'd left every bit of his shaky season behind him, earned 98.37 points for his elegant performance to music by Rachmaninov at the world figure skating championships.

"Exhilirating," Chan said. "I got into my last spin and there was this rush of tingling, just a cold rush through my body. It was amazing, you can only feel that once in a lifetime... or if you're going to jump off a building."

Chan landed a huge quad toe loop in a combination, followed by a clean triple Axel and had the crowd at Budweiser Gardens on its feet long before he finished the final turn of his last spin.

"It was amazing, to put in all the work and finally prove to myself all that hard work... figure skating isn't arbitrary, and I think a lot of us believe that it is. And I definitely thought and I struggled with that (Tuesday)," Chan said. "And today was just proof that it's not. It's a matter of luck, it's a matter of how much work you put in, and how much confidence you have in the work you put in."

Denis Ten of Kazakhstan heads into Friday's free skate in second with 91.56 points.

Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., the perennial national runner-up to Chan, is third with 85.16. One of the world's biggest jumpers, Reynolds was the only skater in the field to do two quads -- the second one with a wobbly landing -- scoring 85.16 points.

Earlier in the day, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford laid down a pairs short program good enough to leave the Canadians in second place -- the highlight thus far of a partnership only three years in the making.

"I felt sick to my stomach all day," Duhamel said through a wide grin. "We were so nervous all morning, we put a huge amount of pressure on ourselves, our whole lives have been geared toward being on the podium but more so in the last year."

Duhamel, from Lively, Ont., and Radford, from Balmertown, Ont., scored 73.61 points for their virtually flawless skate to music from La Boheme. Duhamel left the Budweiser Gardens crowd laughing at her exuberant celebration at centre ice.

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia are the leaders, scoring 75.84 for their sultry skate to music from The Godfather. Four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany scored 73.47 for an uninspiring performance to leave them third.

Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto, are fifth with a score of 69.25.

Duhamel and Radford, who teamed up three years ago, were fifth at last year's world championships in Nice, France, and said every day since, they'd been aiming at the podium in London.

"We had so much pressure, I felt so sick," Duhamel said. "I thought: 'What if I go to jump and my legs just don't do it?' I felt like I was just going to collapse. But soon as the music started it felt great."

The 27-year-old Duhamel, in a red sequined dress, and 28-year-old Radford, wearing a khaki shirt and suspenders, had the most ambitious program of the afternoon. They landed huge side-by-side triple Lutzes and then went straight into a textbook throw triple Lutz that had Duhamel grinning until the final seconds of the program in front of a crowd dotted by several dozen Canadian flags.

"It was really exciting to land the triple Lutz in our short program, and when we landed it, the look on everybody's faces down in the corner in the stands, they were all really excited," Duhamel said. "Going into the throw, which came like five seconds later, we just looked at each other, took a deep breath to make sure we didn't lose our focus, and the crowd was amazing.

"In the side-by-side spin, I was worried I wouldn't hear Eric call to change (feet), because the crowd was really loud. We loved it."

A world victory this week would make Chan the first male skater to win three in a row since Russian Alexei Yagudin (1998-2000).

But more importantly, it would confirm he's back on track -- when he's been anything but -- less than a year out from the Sochi Olympics.

Chan was virtually unbeatable, going undefeated for nearly a year-and-a-half coming into this season. But he was upset by Spain Javier Fernandez at Skate Canada International and had to settle for bronze at the Grand Prix Final.

Reynolds wasn't sure he'd be able to compete here this week after a cyst behind his left knee ruptured 10 days ago.

"So to have a performance like this on home ice, it's just an incredible start to this week. It feels great," Reynolds said.

The 22-year-old did a little improvising in his program to the toe-tapping Chambermaid Swing, turning what had been a scheduled triple Lutz into a second quad.

In pairs, no Canadian twosome has been on the world podium since Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison won bronze in 2008. Canada hasn't had two teams in the top five since 1986.

If the final results of Canada's pairs teams total 13 or better, Canada will get a full slate of three berths in pairs at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 14, 2013 D6

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