As the world figure skating championships have begun in ice, Patrick Chan hasn't lost an event in a long time, say more than a year.
With his powerful quadruple jumps and attention to detail, Chan has been able to bury his competitors by double-digits in all but one competition. It's not that it's easy. Chan wears pressure on his back every time he competes, and admits to fits of nerves. He never treats a win like it's a given.
He'll be back to defend his world title in Nice, and with the vagaries of the new judging system, no man has been able to put together consecutive wins at a world championship since Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland in 2005 and 2006. Chan says that motivates him, but what's interesting the weeks leading up to the world championships is that Chan seems to have been searching for motivation, since he won the Four Continents and easily defeated one of his toughest rivals, Daisuke Takahashi of Japan.
"Things have been pretty up and down since Four Continents," Chan said. "It's that time of the year where we're all looking forward to the season coming to an end."
It's been another good challenge for Chan, he said. He said he's trying to "work through the kinks and working through the mental toughness." At this time of year, he doesn't have to spiff up his technique. But he finds himself having to dig at the task every day.
If he needs motivation, here's one: Jeremy Abbott, the U.S. champion, will be breathing down his neck. Abbott said last week that if both he and Chan skate clean programs that they are on the same level. He's not just boasting. He landed a quad in his free skate at U.S. nationals that was easy and perfect. Abbott is more like Chan than any other skater, with a deft technical ability for items other than jumps.
In his last event, Abbott fumbled the ball, missed a lot of jumps and finished behind former world champion Brian Joubert of France at an event in The Hague. It wasn't a shining moment heading into worlds, but it may have given him what he needs. Abbott says he needed the event to shake off the rust. In other words, he's getting that motivating competition in him that Chan hasn't had, idle since four Continents five weeks ago. Abbott is starting to shine after putting the boot problems of last season behind him when he went through eight or nine pairs.
"He's such a great skater," Chan said of Abbott, who he used to train with. "He moves so well and he jumps really well. Obviously, he has the same technical skill that I do. He has a quad. He can do Axels. And the way he can weave the program together and do a jump after a complicated transition, it's really interesting to see someone of that calibre."
Perhaps Chan will find inspiration during the practices this week. He describes them as showdowns, especially among the men in the top group, who are all doing quads now.
It's fun, he said, to do a jump, then have a rival respond with a jump, Jeremy is great to practice with because he's such a great skater. He moves so well and he jumps really well. Obviously, he has the same technical skill that I do. He has a quad. He can do Axels. And the way he can weave the program together and do a jump after a complicated transition, it's really interesting to see someone who is of that calibre.
For me, it is like a showdown, It's fun to go and practice, because he'll do a jump and then I'll do a jump. "You have the big guns in the last group," Chan said. "And they're all whipping off quads and Axels."
Spectators will have to wait most of the week for these competitive showdowns. The men's short program isn't until Friday. The free skate is on Saturday in Nice.