Men’s figure skating: Patrick Chan against himself

When he’s on the ice, Patrick Chan could be as close to alone as it gets at the Olympic Winter Games.

On his very best day, the three-time World Champion is unbeatable by other skaters. Only Patrick Chan can topple Patrick Chan.

This is a demon Chan is soberly awake to. This season he has been working hard on his mental execution. He reveals this at a sponsor event earlier this year, “I’ve trained this summer really hard on thinking of one element at a time and not getting too far ahead in the program. It’s really easy to look at the end result, as opposed to looking at the steps you need to take to get to that end result,” he said.

And it seemed to pay off. Chan’s Grand Prix season, (the equivalent of his World Cup tour), was very smooth. He won both events he took part in. At the Trophée Bompard he was unreal, setting a world record in both the short program and free skate, adding up to another.

His total score of 295.27 was over 30 points ahead of Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu. Even at that point in the season, the distance is staggering.

Yuzuru Hanyu, Patrick Chan, Jason Brown

He is fair in his evaluation of the good, “This season has been great in the mental aspect because I’ve had great success at many of my competitions and I’ve been the most consistent out of all the seasons I’ve competed. I’m on the right track.”

The season hasn’t been perfect. Hanyu beat him at the Grand Prix Final. Chan used the words ‘hurt’ and ‘upset’ after the short program. And day one at Nationals last month was not at the Chan standard. Fresh off the ice after his seventh National title a day later, he was honestly introspective, “Your mind can play crazy tricks, and you can easily just get out of that rhythm and forget the things that you that help you have success. In training and here at Nationals I got out of that rhythm, and those keywords I use to have success. Mistakes happen and that refocuses me and reminds what I need to go back to.”

Patrick Chan

It can’t be easy. The pressure of being World Champion in each of the three years leading up to Sochi is no light matter. Chan wears the stress. But not in an entirely uncomfortable way. He exhibits a maturity fitting of his age and experience. He smiles more. He has seemed to realize this is a wonderful game, if at times internally challenging.

Thinking beyond Sochi, Chan envisions a more airy future, “Maybe that weight lifted off my shoulders of the Olympic Games will make me enjoy figure skating a bit more. But then again I’m really competitive, even if I win the Olympics I’m still going to want to do my best and go gung-ho on every competition.”

Post-2014 plans certainly aren’t appropriately decided today but in that answer there are some hints to Patrick Chan. Add the picture of pure disgust he displayed after his short program in Ottawa last month.

Patrick Chan

And you have this: Patrick Chan is a true competitor. He has constructed a skating repertoire to fully dismantle his opponents. He has cleared the ice of equals and today, he skates perhaps only against himself. And while the challenges of that are indeed great, better to battle the demon he knows best.

WHO: Patrick Chan, Kevin Reynolds and Liam Firus
WHAT: Men’s figure skating
Short program on Thursday, February 13th at 10:00 am ET / 7:00 am PT Free skate on Friday, February 14th at 10:00 am ET / 7:00 am PT