Figure skating world champion Patrick Chan has startled the skate world with remarks in an interview slamming Canada for its attitude toward skaters and reflecting on whether he could skate for China.
Chan was quoted as saying he feels drawn more and more toward his Chinese heritage, despite winning the world championship as a Canadian skater.
“If you look at all the sports in China, the government is extremely involved and they are extremely proud of their athletes,” Chan told Reuters. “People understand better what we do as skaters.
“Sometimes I feel we are not appreciated for how much work we put in. If my parents hadn’t emigrated from China and, say, I had skated for China, things would have been very different. My parents wouldn’t have had to make as much sacrifices as they have and there would be a lot more respect for what we do as figure skaters.”
“I’m slowly feeling more Chinese and feel I should be more proud of being Chinese and appreciate where I’ve come from,” he said.
“I do [wish I could have represented both China and Canada when I competed] That would be the ideal situation … in a perfect world.”
Skaters in Canada lack recognition because hockey is the country’s sport, he said.
Ted Barton of Skate Canada, B.C. section, was surprised to read Chan’s remarks.
“I find it hard to believe he would make those comments,” Barton said Wednesday in an interview. “The fans love him and he is a hero in the skating business. He is on television with big numbers and everybody knows his name. I do not know what else you would want, other than being the most popular figure skater in Canada. That’s pretty big.”
Mike Slipchuk, the high-performance director for Skate Canada, said as far as he knows, Chan has no plans to skate for another country.
He knows Chan well, Slipchuk said, and the Reuters interview was the first time he had heard him speak about representing another country.
“I was aware of his respect for his Chinese heritage but I have never heard anything to the contrary, about representing another country,” Slipchuk said.
Chan is right in his remarks about the high cost of the sport in Canada, Slipchuk added. However, figure skating has recently received significant support from the Canadian government and especially from the Own the Podium program, he said.
Slipchuk declined to comment on the Chinese system of sports, saying he was unfamiliar with how it operated.
“Patrick is very loyal to his Chinese roots,” Slipchuk added. “He is acknowledging [in the interview]the support and respect he has received from the Chinese community throughout his career. It has been a big part of his success.”
However, Chan remains a proud Canadian, proud to wear the maple leaf, Slipchuk said.
“Patrick is a tremendous role model for Skate Canada and skating in Canada,” Slipchuk said. “[He is]well respected and we’re so proud to have him as part of our team.”
A Skate Canada official said the interview was conducted earlier this fall, shortly after Chan had returned from China. The remarks were “a stream of consciousness” about his feelings about his Chinese heritage and not meant to reflect on his Canadian ties, said the official, who was not authorized to be quoted in the media.
Chan was en route to Canada Wednesday evening to compete in the 2011 ISU Grand Prix of figure skating final at ExpoCité in Quebec City and was unavailable for comment.
With a report from Reuters
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Patrick Chan compared the way he is being treated with the way Elvis Stojko and Kurt Browning were treated in the 1980s and 1990s. This version has been corrected.