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Chan underachieves but still throttles competition

Reigning world champion dominates field on bad day

With the win, Canadian Patrick Chan remains undefeated in the calendar year of 2011.
With the win, Canadian Patrick Chan remains undefeated in the calendar year of 2011. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(11/19/2011) - The men's competition has always been highly successful with the French audience -- about as much as female skating has become America's preferred skating discipline throughout the years. The men opened the third day of the Trophée Eric Bompard, the "Free" Day.

Patrick Chan won by more than 16 points over Nan Song, from China, and 22 over Michal Brezina, from the Czech Republic.

Chan skated to his second Grand Prix victory this season, although he skated far from his best (156 points for the free, compared to 170 at Skate Canada). His quad toe and quad toe-triple toe combination were huge and provided a good opening for the rest of his program.

Even though he tripped on several elements later (he doubled his triple Axel and his final triple Lutz, and almost fell on his circular step sequence), Chan managed to keep the interest of his program, which was rich and dense and packed with palpable emotion.

"I always practice to get up and keep going whatever happens," he explained later.

Chan's free program, which he created with Lori Nichol last summer, gave a beautiful rendition to the second movement of Joaquin Rodriguez's "Concierto de Aranjuez." Rodriguez explained during his life that although it was widely recognized as a romantic piece, he composed it in a state of sadness after his wife miscarried their first child.

"This is just a wonderful piece of music," Chan said. "It gave me goosebumps when I heard it. It brings emotion by itself. My job is really to help the audience find their own physical or psychological emotion.

"While skating, I have my own emotions, and I give the audience a visual help for them to reach their own emotions, as emotions are so personal."

Chan did not develop the romantic side of the piece, but he certainly managed to project strong emotion to the audience.

"I do not necessarily interpret the author's emotions, of course, but it sure inspires me to find my own emotion," he said.

Song, from China, confirmed his second-place finish at the short program. Skating in a classical style to Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2," he managed to score 46 points in just four elements (quad toe, quad toe-triple toe, triple Axel, triple Axel-triple toe).

"I am pleased," Song said afterward, "Because I managed to land two clean quadruple jumps in one program. I loved the music as soon as I heard it, and I have fun skating to it."

"Go Adam, the sky is yours!" stated a sign posted by a fan along the boards. This statement could not be more true, Adam Rippon would say later. His free program, set to Johann Sebastian Bach's "Air" ("Tune") and "Toccata and Fugue," was a delight to watch.

"Pasquale [Camerlengo, who created Rippon's free] thought that I looked like an angel," Rippon said, "So the story he created was about Adam and Eve. When we created the program for the first time, there was a bird in the rink and he said: 'Wow, that's nice, it's just like in heaven!' Then, during practice I saw two pigeons ahead of us in the rink, so I thought of that story again."

Rippon started with a quad Lutz attempt that was downgraded by the technical panel. He did not let it interfere with the course of his story, though, and the rest of his program was solid. Two of his spins got a Level 4 and one a Level 3. Rippon got huge support from the audience throughout his program. Remaining completely focused and silent at times, they roared at every jump and erupted in applause at the end of his program.

"This was a program!" a young fan exclaimed afterward. "Such programs will make you love classical music!"

"I want to go for the quad, even if [my coaches] say no," Brezina told icenetwork.com right after his free program at Skate America. He tried, but he could not hold his promise in Paris, as he doubled his planned quad Salchow.

Several other mishaps could have cost him the bronze medal. He finished fourth in the free program, but not far enough from Rippon to allow the American to make the podium.

Nobunari Oda, Japanese jumping master, had a nightmare day again. Oda was supported from start to end by the audience, thrilled to hear their all-time favorite "Les Parapluies de Cherbourg." Oda endured three falls and singled several of his planned triples.

Florent Amodio, from France, would have loved to display his talent as a true entertainer and dancer through his Brazilian program. Amodio changed his program quite extensively since the start of the season, to make it evolve from "Latin" to "Amazonian" music, with bird songs all along. He fell heavily on his quadruple Salchow attempt and had several technical mishaps throughout.