If the new Olympic figure skating team event was a relay, Patrick Chan, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford handed off the Canadian baton in second place Thursday.
Chan was third in the men’s short program — the first event of the four disciplines. He scored 89.71 points, doubling a planned triple toe loop and stumbling out of the landing of his triple Axel.
“All I can say is it was getting used to the buzz in the rink after practising so long by myself, me myself and I,” the 23-year-old from Toronto said afterward. “It’s a different to be able to skate in a crowd and with other skaters, other skaters I haven’t practised with, all those things play a factor.”
The pairs team of Duhamel, from Lively, Ont., and Radford, from Balmertown, Ont., followed with a second-place performance in the pairs short program. That gave Canada 17 of a possible 20 points, two back of the host Russians.
In the men’s short, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan finished first with 97.98 points.
Russian veteran Evgeni Plushenko was a surprising second, scoring 91.39 points in his first major international event since the 2010 Olympics.
“I’m so happy with my performance today,” said Plushenko, who underwent back surgery last year to replace a deteriorated disc in his spine. “That’s the fourth Olympic Games in my life. Twelve surgeries and after 12 surgeries I can compete, I can skate. It doesn’t matter what kind of result it will be in the end. I’ve already won — for myself. And of course, I’m so happy today it was a good performance for myself.”
In the pairs, Duhamel and Radford finished second with a score of 73.10 skating to “Tribute,” a musical piece composed by Radford to pay tribute to former coach Paul Wirtz, who died of cancer.
Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov won the pairs short with a dominating skate, scoring 83.70 points.
Each first-place finisher receives 10 points, with second place getting nine points, and so on.
Chan, a three-time world champion and a favourite for gold in the individual event in Sochi, arrived in town a few days ahead of the other skaters, and had the ice to himself for a couple of practice sessions.
He said the TV-friendly team event was great preparation for the individual men’s event begins Feb. 13.
“Absolutely, I got off the ice and saw the scores and thought, ’Hey you know what, this is a great chance honestly to get those jitters out.’ There was that feeling I want to be so perfect because people are watching, I feel like the centre of attention. All those little things crept into my mind.
“Now I can go out . . .and just to go for it, and go for the landings, and attack the landings. I think I was a little passive on the landings, just letting it happen as opposed to really sticking them.”
The short dance, women’s short program and the pairs long program are Saturday. The men’s and women’s long programs are Sunday.
Countries are permitted up to two substitutions for the long program. Chan is expected to be replaced by Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., for the long program so Chan can focus on his individual competition.
Chan said it feels a bit awkward to hand off to Reynolds.
“A little bit,” he said. “But it also feels good, it shows my teammates that it can be done.
“I’m the first one out and I’m alive after it, there’s nothing to be scared of, I can lead the team in that aspect, I can be the first one to go out for the team. Right now, I’m happy to hand it off.”
Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto are expected to skate the pairs long program in place of Duhamel and Radford.
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