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Chan finally smiling again

Canada's top figure skater says his self-esteem is back -- just in time

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LONDON, Ont. -- Skating felt foreign, self-doubt had crept in, and Patrick Chan admits he started to panic.

So the 22-year-old from Toronto up and moved to Detroit three weeks before the world figure skating championships -- a decision that may have puzzled a few, but by all appearances didn't hurt him at all.

The two-time world champion delivered a 6.0 practice Monday ahead of the world championships that begin Wednesday, landing a textbook quadruple toe loop and triple Axel, and looking stronger than he has in a long time.

"I was very uneasy, no confidence, very low self-esteem -- which is really odd for a two-time world champion. There was something wrong... something off the ice, just not being happy where I am," Chan said about where his skating was a few months ago.

"I definitely was panicking a little bit because I wasn't skating as I normally was. I couldn't find my stride. I just felt like I was a step behind every time I tried to do something. The reason it took me so long to figure out was I wasn't sure, I thought maybe I'm not training well enough? Maybe I'm not mentally tough enough? It was really puzzling."

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 the Canadian is back on track less than a year out from the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

He had been off-track for most of the season.

Chan said the move to Detroit was suggested by a few people close to him, and came on the heels of a frustrating season that saw him lose for the first time after going undefeated for nearly a year and a half. He finished runner-up at Skate Canada International and third at the Grand Prix Final.

"It's an obvious result that going to a different place just for the three weeks before worlds was a good choice just for a change," said Chan, whose coach Kathy Johnson accompanied him to Detroit. "It doesn't necessarily mean it's permanent. It just needed to change, I just needed a kick-start in my life, my skating life."

Chan oozed cool on Monday. His run-through of his short program to music by Rachmaninoff looked better than he's skated it in competition this season and brought the crowd of about 1,000 fans at Budweiser Gardens to its feet.

"I just stepped out there and had confidence, wasn't stressed, wasn't hesitant, just going with the flow of my skating," he said.

While Chan's move to Detroit isn't permanent -- he has a house, a car and friends in Colorado Springs, Colo. -- he might make it so. Chan said he wasn't feeling good about the atmosphere at the rink in Colorado.

"There's tons of kids (in Detroit) who are just there having a good time, it just relieves the pressure, it makes me go out to practise on my session and have fun, and go out with a smile," he said.

Chan said a victory will prove he can overcome the hardships he's faced this season -- "come to the big competition and nail it on the right day at the right event, and the important event."

The Canadian will face stiff competition however from Japanese skaters Daisuke Takahashi, the reigning world runner-up, and Yuzuru Hanyu, the world bronze medallist. Javier Fernandez of Spain, who lives in Toronto and trains with former world champion Brian Orser, has the season's best score.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 12, 2013 D5

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