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Chan preps for title defense in Calgary, Detroit

'Rough' season prompts skater to retool, regroup, refocus

Getting to see many of his Canadian teammates, like ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, on a regular basis has Patrick Chan feeling right at home at the Detroit Skating Club.
Getting to see many of his Canadian teammates, like ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, on a regular basis has Patrick Chan feeling right at home at the Detroit Skating Club. (twitter.com/WeaverPoje)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/01/2013) - Patrick Chan is preparing for his world title defense in some new digs: the Detroit Skating Club (DSC).

The 22-year-old and his coach, Kathy Johnson, arrived in Detroit two weeks ago to prepare for the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario, beginning March 10.

"I really wanted to stay in the same time zone as where the world championships in London would be," Chan told reporters on a teleconference Friday.

"The best place I could train, the most competitive and friendly and [with a] positive environment, where I would be with other skaters, was DSC, so I decided to make the quick drive to Detroit."

Chan, who won the world title in 2011 and 2012, spoke of "retooling" and "regrouping" on the 30-minute call, which drew an unusually large group of reporters.

For the six-time Canadian champion, the atmosphere at DSC -- where singles skaters like Jeremy Abbott, Alissa Czisny and Canada's Elladj Baldé train and socialize with a large group of ice dancers, including Canadian pals Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje -- is just the tonic needed after what he repeatedly called a "rough" season.

"I'm staying with Kaitlyn and Andrew," he said. "I'm having a great time. It's a really positive environment, and we're getting a lot of work done. ... [The skaters] work hard on the ice, and we have fun at the same time."

Chan has not trained with any of the DSC-based coaches, who include Jason Dungjen and Yuko Sato, and continues to work strictly with Johnson.

"The good thing [about Johnson] is she is very mobile; wherever I decide to go, she will go," he said. "If I choose to be in Colorado or Detroit, it doesn't matter. We've worked in both rinks. I didn't think about taking from anyone else."

Depending on how he feels after the 2013 World Championships, he may make the move to DSC permanent.

"It's hard to say right now," he said. "I love it here. I am really happy with [the other] skaters. I am sitting in the lobby, and there are tons of skaters here: Elladj, the pairs skater, Narumi [Takahashi]. We're laughing a lot, cracking a lot of jokes.

"In another way, it's hard to make the decision final. I am settled in Colorado, and I made the decision to buy a house. I will make the decision after worlds. I have to talk to Kathy, to Skate Canada, and see what is best for me. Next year is all about the Olympics. ... I want to make a decision that will [help me] skate my best at Olympics, with no weight on my shoulders."

This season has brought Chan mixed results. He placed second to Spain's Javier Fernández at Skate Canada in late October before winning the Rostelecom Cup a few weeks later. At the Grand Prix Final in Sochi, he placed third behind Japanese skaters Daisuke Takahashi and Yuzuru Hanyu. Although he won his sixth Canadian title in January, his performances were not perfect: He did not do a triple Axel in his free skate and fell on a triple flip.

It all prompted Chan to skip the 2013 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, in favor of recalibrating with his support team.

"This season hasn't been great, and this has been a test to take time to regroup, to retest and refocus [on] what I need to do to be better, to prove to everyone -- and mostly to myself -- that when it comes to important events, I can really pull it out and do what is necessary to win," he said.

After the Canadian championships, he traveled to Calgary to spend a week at the home of his trainer, Andy O'Brien.

"I went to revamp my whole off-ice training program, look at my nutrition and my supplements and tune it up a bit," Chan said. "The last time I did that was a while ago, and every year your needs change."

O'Brien, who also works with hockey star Sidney Crosby, reviewed Chan's diet and off-ice workout routine, down to his breakfast and post warm-up supplements, and provided guidance on other matters.

"[O'Brien] has experience with Sidney Crosby, who strives for perfection at all times, and I see myself as bit of perfectionist," Chan said. "It was good to talk about how to deal with the challenge to repeat as world champion. It was a very good week, a very productive week."

From there, Chan traveled to Toronto to work with choreographers Jeff Buttle and David Wilson on his programs, including a short to Rachmaninoff and free to music from La Boheme.

"We changed the patterns and even the order of some of the jumps," Chan said. "I felt I was struggling, mostly in the long program. [The changes] make it easier to be consistent with the elements."

Chan, who will remain in Detroit for another week, is happy to have the opportunity to drive to a big senior event for the first time.

"I'm really comfortable with the rink [in London]," he said. "I've skated in that exact rink before. The nationals before the Olympics [in 2010] was there, so it will be a really familiar environment. ... I love London. It's a very comfortable place for me to be."

And no problems with local cuisine: After returning from the Grand Prix Final, Chan reported stomach problems caused by greasy local food. In London, he'll be on familiar ground.

"It will be weird to have a car with me, but it's going to be interesting," he said. "It will be good not to have to deal with jet lag or [unfamiliar] food. I know my way around London, so if need anything, it will be very easy."