Patrick Chan is one of Canada's best hopes for a gold medal in Sochi. But even as the pressure begins to mount, the three-time world champion figures, no matter what, the next Winter Olympics will still be a lot less stressful than Vancouver.
Chan was still a teenager when he stepped onto the ice at the 2010 Games, where he placed fifth under the gaze of a nation anxious to win on home ice. Now 22, he is looking forward to less hoopla in Russia in February, and more time to focus on his quest for the podium.
While much is always said about home-ice advantage, there are perks to being on the road.
"These Sochi Olympics, I think, will be a little smoother and easier on Canadians. Because we're definitely not going to have as much pressure as we did in Vancouver," Chan said Thursday in Mississauga, Ont., where Canada's figure skaters were putting their routines through the paces.
Since the 2010 Games, Chan has reeled off an impressive string of international wins – and has honed his most difficult jumps – putting him within reach of becoming the first Canadian man to win Olympic gold in figure skating.
When his plane touched down in Vancouver four years ago, his arrival was filmed by television crews. Heading to Russia, he is looking forward to a little less of the spotlight, which he hopes will help on the ice.
"The crowds are, of course, going to be cheering for the Russians the most. And that will relieve some pressure," he said. "It's always good to know that you're not the centre of attention completely, and there's still some distance between me and the rest of Canada back home."
Chan is not alone. Having lived through the intensity of Vancouver, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the defending gold medalists in ice dance, expect experience will go a long way in February.
"When we were younger, that question used to always make us mad, because we were the ones that didn't have the experience. Now, we understand more that experience counts for a lot," Moir said. "That doesn't mean that we know exactly what's coming in Sochi. There will be some more lessons coming for us this year, and we kind of embrace that."
Virtue, who battled back from injury to skate in Vancouver, said the 2010 Games were a blur given the pressure and attention at home, coupled with daily sessions of physiotherapy to get her ready for the ice. With the potential that these Olympics will be the duo's last, Virtue said her objective is to to enjoy the atmosphere of Sochi, while also winning.
"Personally, it's just to stay present in the moment, and really enjoy it. Because what I felt about Vancouver was that it was so overwhelming, and so intense," Virtue said. "I don't have the memories that I wish I had. I see some photos, and I don't remember."
Chan also acknowledged 2014 could be his last Olympics, but added he hasn't decided yet.
"Possibly," he said. "Too soon to say, of course. That's the generic answer. For now, I'm enjoying every day. It's been going by really fast. And that's funny because the year that you think is going to be the last tends to go fast. And this summer has blown by. But one thing I know is that I love skating."
Several spots on Canada's team for Sochi won't be decided until January, but Chan, Moir and Virtue are certain to be heading up the race for the podium.
Virtue and Moir, who are currently being filmed for a fly-on-the-wall reality show for the W Network, which will air in the weeks leading up to the 2014 Games, say they are already feeling the unique buzz of an Olympic year, with less than six months to go.
"The roller coaster is just taking off," Virtue said.
"We're driving the roller coaster though," Moir added. "We're not along for the ride, just so you know."