News flash: Patrick Chan will probably win his fifth Canadian figure skating championship senior title this weekend in Moncton, N.B., unless he finds ice more slippery than usual, or decides to nip out for coffee at the wrong time.
But there will come a day when Chan, (still only 21), will leave the sport and perhaps ply a career in business or money management, and who will be left in Canada to pick up the pieces of a dominant world champion?
Or, to take a more myopic view, who will fill the second berth that Canadian men have for the world championships in Nice, France in March?
This Canadian championship is a qualifying event for the world championships, to which Canada may send two men, three ice dancing teams, two pairs and only one woman (so desperate have things become since Olympic bronze medalist Joannie Rochette went on her sabbatical).
Those who aspire to that remaining men’s spot are Canada’s quad king, Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., the world junior champion, Andrei Rogozine of Toronto, Jeremy Ten of Burnaby, B.C., a former Canadian bronze medalist, Liam Firius of North Vancouver, the 2010 Canadian junior champion and the tiny upstart Nam Nguyen, who is only 13 and the 2011 Canadian junior champion.
Reynolds has been a precocious jumper from the time he was a juvenile skater, but in recent years, the gold ring has always fallen beyond his grasp. He finished third at the 2010 Canadian championships, and because there were only two Olympic spots up for grabs, he missed his Olympic shot in his hometown.
Last year, with injuries, he could not show what he had.
This year, he got off on the wrong foot, when he fell sick at a Grand Prix event in Paris and had to withdraw from the freeskate, and then finished seventh at Cup of China. But you can’t ever count him out. He turned senior when he was 16. Chan made his debut at the senior ranks at the 2006 Canadian championships, when he was 15.
Rogozine, 18, made his senior international debut at the Skate Canada Grand Prix in Mississauga last fall, and his effort was better than his seventh-place finish indicates. In the freeskate, he fell on a triple Axel, a jump that is usually solid for him, but he fought back to land another one, and he has presentation, tools, too. And he proved that he was able to come back and deliver the rest of his program after a fall. He seems to be a good competitor, consistently delivering. It’s a big step from junior to senior and he’s taking it.
Ten was brilliant in 2009 when he won the bronze medal in this class, skating with great speed. But he’s fallen on hard times since. During Olympic qualifying season, he suffered from a sore ankle, and wasn’t getting anywhere, until he decided to step aside and have surgery to stop bone impingement. Then, just as he got back onto the ice, he broke his leg in a freak fall in practice. More surgery. His comeback this season has been slow, and it’s only in the past month that he’s added all of his triples back into the program.
But the Jeremy Ten that is emerging as a 22-year-old skater has matured beyond belief. He has a solid grasp on the artistry of skating.
Nguyen is a wild card, a boy fighting men. But that’s never stopped him before. When he won the junior title last year at age 12, he was dwarfed on the podium by the silver and bronze medal winners, standing a foot shorter.