Chan raises the roof in title defense

18-year-old upstart takes gold at Canadian championships

Patrick Chan won gold at the 2009 BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships.
Patrick Chan won gold at the 2009 BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships. (Getty Images)


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By Laurie Nealin, special to
(01/19/2009) - Luckily for Patrick Chan, his triple Axel troubles proved to be only temporary.

En route to defending his title at the 2009 BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships, the 18-year-old upstart unleashed three beautiful Axels and looked set to challenge for the world crown in March.

Saturday night in Saskatoon, Chan raised the roof with a performance that few men in the world could match. His program set to Rachmaninov scored 165.93 points, giving him a total of 254.82. That score was some 46 points higher than his nearest rival.

Calgary's Vaughn Chipeur and Jeremy Ten, of Vancouver, claimed silver and bronze in an exciting men's final which brought these 2009 Canadian championships to a close.

Chipeur, the man with the humongous triple Axel, tallied 206.30 for the meet, while Ten, collected 204.03.

Following the event, Skate Canada announced that the three medalists will compete at both the 2009 Four Continents Championships in Vancouver in two weeks and Worlds in Los Angeles in March.

"I'm still like, 'Omigod. This happened,'" said Chan about an hour after his victory.

"People said after the short that I pretty much had it in the bag, but I didn't think exactly that. The skaters here aren't the only ones I will be competing against. I'm going to be against Evan [Lysacek], Daisuke [Takahashi], Takahiko Kozuka, all the Europeans, so they would probably have total scores close to what I had here.

"So, I thought, 'I'm not the last skater. I have three other skaters after me who are gunning for the gold medal as well.' I had that mindset to motivate myself to attack and do everything planned in the program," said Chan, explaining how he mentally inserted the world's top skaters into the picture here to ensure he was motivated to give his best performance possible.

Chan did commit one major error in his program. He botched the take-off for the triple flip and lost control of the jump in the air. That cost him 10 points, he figured.

"Something popped in my mind. I knew [the take-off] wasn't right. I didn't want to pull in totally and kill myself," said Chan, who hails from Toronto but trains in Florida with coach Don Laws.

Chan was ninth in his senior world debut in Sweden, but this season opened with two wins on the Grand Prix circuit. His fortunes fizzled along with his triple Axel by the time he got to the Final in December, where he finished fifth.

With the Axel back under control, he is back in the hunt. Adding a quadruple jump to his repertoire is next on his agenda.

Chipeur, 24, fourth nationally in 2008, threw his head back and shook his fists in triumph when his scores came up. He delivered six solid triples in his energetic program, including one of the biggest triple Axels in the business.

"I'm really excited. It hasn't really sunk in yet," said Chipeur, who is coached by former U.S. champion Scott Davis.

Asked what he would like to improve before Four Continents, Chipeur replied, "Make the triple Axel bigger."

He was not kidding. It bothered him, it seems, that only five of nine judges gave him a +3 grade of execution for his amazing leap. He wants +3s across the board.

"I figure if it's done that well, what's the point of having +3s if you're not going to give them out," Chipeur said.

Ten, 19, was the 2007 national junior champion and finished 11th in his senior debut last year. Although he fell on his opening triple Axel, Ten came back strong to nail six other triples.

Frequent bronze medalist Shawn Sawyer finished out of the medals in fifth this time. Fourth place went to Kevin Reynolds, who opened with a quad Salchow, albeit two-footed, and followed that with a quad toe-loop.

Paul Poirier, who won ice dance silver with Vanessa Crone, finished a credible 11th among 17 in his debut in senior men's competition. He won silver as a junior last year.

Chan - along with the three other senior national champions crowned this week -- will lead the Canadian team to Four Continents Championships in the Olympic venue. It was in that arena that Chan won his first national title a year ago.

Then, it's on to Los Angeles for the worlds.

Like Chan, women's champ Joannie Rochette, pairs winners Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison, and ice dance marvels Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, will be in the medal hunt at the season's biggest events.

These athletes clearly have the pedal to the metal as they navigate the twists and turns on the winding road to their home Games in Vancouver. In the next 12 months, they will take all of Canada with them on what promises to be one heck of a wild ride.