Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Great skate debate is OVER

Chan declares allegiance to Canada, not serious about competing for China

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World champion figure skater Patrick Chan said Thursday he is proud to represent Canada and has no intention of skating for another country, clarifying earlier comments that touched off a firestorm of controversy ahead of this week's ISU Grand Prix Final.

"I never intended to suggest any negative feelings toward Canada, nor our country's proud figure skating tradition, the way in which I have been supported by Canadians," Chan said in a news release Thursday, a day after a Reuters story quoted him as saying he feels underappreciated in Canada and that as a result he is growing more connected to his Chinese roots.

"I am and will remain a proud Canadian. Canada has given my family and me tremendous freedom and opportunity. Canada's figure skating history is second to none. I am honoured to skate for Canada and proud to follow great champions like Barbara Ann Scott, Don Jackson, Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko, and so many other distinguished men and women. I work hard every day to honour their tradition of excellence. And I have been blessed by the support and friendship shown by Canadians of every background and in every region of the country.

"At the same time, I value the heritage of my parents' country of birth. This is as true for me as it is for Canadians of every origin. While my sentiments may have been better expressed, they make me no less Canadian, and no less dedicated to the success of Canada's sports and figure skating programs."

Chan, 20, was in Quebec City for the Grand Prix Final, where he capped a tumultuous week on Saturday by winning his second consecutive ISU Grand Prix Final title with a 260.30 overall total.

In the Reuters story, Chan is quoted as saying: "If my parents hadn't emigrated from China, and say I had skated for China, things would have been very different. My parents wouldn't have had to make as much sacrifices as they have and there would be a lot more respect for what we do as figure skaters."

On Thursday, Chan -- who was born in Ottawa and raised in Toronto after his parents emigrated from China -- clarified those comments.

"In skating or any amateur sport, as athletes we share something in common: the cost of training is quite a burden on our parents or on the athletes themselves trying to find a way to pay for their costs," he told CBC.ca. "My parents are very good parents and have already said that they will look after me until the end of my skating career. The fact that I made the comment about going to China was a reflection of daydreaming about a way to minimize those burdens.

"It was never meant in any way that I would want to live in and skate for China. I was thinking of my parents when I said that."

Meeting reporters at the event in Quebec City, Chan said he had completely forgotten about the interview, conducted this summer, and was surprised by its late publication, but said his comments were taken "out of context" and that he would not let the incident distract him from the competition.

"When I'm on the ice I forget everything, all my problems," he said, stressing it wouldn't be like him to get angry because of an article.

Mike Slipchuk, high-performance director for Skate Canada, said Chan's comments in the Reuters story have been taken out of context.

"We were all very surprised when we saw it," Slipchuk told the National Post. "The quotes in the article and the intent of them. It took us off guard because (Patrick) was misquoted, and (the story) was taken in the wrong direction, which is unfortunate."

Slipchuk said the Reuters interview was done in September, shortly after Chan had returned from performing in China.

"Being from Canada, we're such a multicultural nation and we all come from somewhere, and often, as you get older you really start to understand and appreciate your heritage," Slipchuk told the National Post. "Patrick is a young person and he is just moving through life right now, but his comments were respectful comments and his chance to say what he feels about his heritage. How it turned out was unfortunate."

The Reuters story quoted Chan as saying: "Several years ago I felt more Canadian, but I'm slowly feeling more Chinese and feel I should be more proud of being Chinese and appreciate where I've come from... I do (wish I could have represented both China and Canada when I compete). That would be the ideal situation... in a perfect world."

On Thursday, he elaborated.

"I guess I was talking about my cultural roots," he told CBC.ca. "I am definitely Canadian, but of Chinese heritage. I was as excited as anything to (visit) China (last summer) for cultural reasons. I mean, to see the Terracotta Warriors and the Great Wall of China and to be in a place with so much culture and history and to see where the Chinese marked their place in history was really cool."

Last April in Moscow, Chan won the men's world championship, setting records for most points in a short program (93.02) and most points in free skate (280.98).

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2011 A1

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