For a time, Patrick Chan and two of his training friends in Colorado Springs, Colo., had a pact to grow mustaches - and shave them off before the world figure skating championships.
That plan, and many others, went awry when the world championships in Tokyo had to be postponed for a month and were moved to Moscow.
Ryan Bradley, the gregarious U.S. champion, shaved his off on March 21, the day the world championships were scheduled to take place. Chan? "Now I see that I don't have very good mustache growing skills, thanks to my Chinese genetics," he said.
As for Bradley, Chan figured it was a good thing that he cut it off when he did. "It would be kind of out of control, if he let it grow," Chan said. "I envy him."
All of them have been struggling with things other than hirsute pursuits, however.
Chan has found the uncertainties surrounding the world championships tough, mostly because he was at the top of his game for a world championships in Tokyo at the end of March. Then an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, prompting the schedule and location change. "I think it's one of the hardest things in my career," Chan said. "It was hard, because I was so ready to go. You let the tiger out and then there was nothing. The meal was not there."
The world championships will be held from April 25 through May 1.
The hardest part came over a two-week span, when skaters did not know if the world championship were going to be cancelled altogether or not. "A lot of the other skaters didn't know if they should keep training or not and didn't know if it was worth it," he said. "But I just kept going. I was pretty sure they wouldn't cancel such a big competition."
He's never given himself a break even though the prevailing thought is that a skater needs to train a certain way to reach a peak at the optimum moment. Chan said he doesn't believe in peaking.
Coach Christy Krall kept Chan smiling during training. "Christy is really good at that, keeping it light and fun," Chan said. "So now I feel it's been extended, that's all. I don't think of it as a big burden."
Chan said he thought it would be much harder to start up again, if he stopped. He was on a roll with his training at the time, he said. He was in shape. "I was feeling really confident and I had already started my mental preparation for being in Japan," he said. "It was a big change. It's a big test."
The test in a few weeks will be whether Chan can recreate his flawless, difficult performance from the Canadian championships, when he scored a total of 285.85 points, far higher than the world record of 264.41 set by Daisuke Takahashi of Japan. (The score doesn't count as an international record because international judges didn't rule on it.)
Chan thinks he can. "I'll be watching that on YouTube for the rest of my life," he said. "It's something special. But it's not a one-time thing. And it'll be a program on its own, just mentally, because the situation will be different. I know I can repeat it."
Chan wonders how the postponement of the world championships will affect skaters for next season. It put a crimp in his between-season rest time. He's already trying to think of music for a new long program for next season, and yet he's not finished with the old one. "I'm not good at multitasking," he said.
And he's also looking ahead at the rest of his life. Last month, he was accepted into a unique university in Colorado, which will allow him to train while studying international economics. He will take one course at a time, each running 3 ½ to 4 weeks before he writes an exam. The classes at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, where Chan trains, run from 9 a.m. to noon local time.
"Skating is just a sport for us," said his mother, Karen. "We like learning. He can also reach for the top in something else."
"You have to keep working the muscle," said Chan, referring this time, to his brain.
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