Despite all the ups and downs of his comeback season, Patrick Chan is enjoying himself.
So chances are good, he said, that he'll stick with the sport until the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
The 25-year-old will take aim at a record fourth title when he competes at the World Figure Skating Championships next week in Boston, and then decide whether to continue with his comeback, or retire for good.
"Things are looking pretty good," Chan said on a conference call Monday. "I'm healthy, I didn't run into any major roadblocks this season, and I've kind of got back into the rhythm of things and what it's like to compete again, and I enjoy it, especially when there's the success that comes with it. But even through the challenging times, I think Kathy [Johnson, his coach] and I have figured out how to get through them, and that I think is a good starting point for the next two years."
The 25-year-old from Toronto stepped away from competing for almost 18 months after his heartbreaking second-place finish at the Sochi Olympics. His rocky return saw him win Skate Canada, finish fourth at the Grand Prix Final, then bounce back to win the Four Continents championships last month with a personal-best free skate score.
"If I decide to go ahead and compete, then I'm going for the next two years, I'm not going to give up after next year because it would be such a shame," Chan said. "And if I decide not to compete next season, and decide to pick it up just for the Olympic season, that would be completely ridiculous strategically, so this is going to be the deciding factor after this season, whether I keep going."
Chan won three consecutive world titles – in 2011, 2012 and 2013 – and a fourth would tie him with Kurt Browning for most titles won by a Canadian.
Chan goes into Boston as an underdog for the first time in a long time, and he's perfectly fine with that.
But while he was away, the global men's field changed, with skaters such as his Japanese rival Yuzuru Hanyu packing their programs with quad jumps.
Now Chan goes into Boston as an underdog for the first time in a long time, and he's perfectly fine with that.
"This is a completely different world championships because I'm a much different skater, a much different individual in my life, my skating has improved a ton. However, I'm not the favourite for the event," he said. "I am a bit of an underdog, but it's kind of exciting for me. I don't feel like I need to defend anything. The combination of keeping it fresh, yet familiar is a good balance. And I think that might help me a lot."
Chan has been vocal in his displeasure over the focus on the quad jump, saying it's turned the sport into a "slam dunk contest." Hanyu has five quads over his short and long programs. China's Jin Boyang became the first skater in history to land four quads in his long program at the Four Continents, but he still lost to Chan.
"I'm at a disadvantage now, technically. I'm competing against men who are doing five quads between the short program and the long program, and I'm at three between the two programs. Who would ever imagine that three wasn't enough for some people?" Chan said.
Nam Nguyen of Toronto is Canada's other entry. Liam Firus earned the second spot on the team, but stepped down in favour of Nguyen, who has had better results internationally, including a fifth-place finish at last year's worlds. The world results determine how many skaters Canada can enter in next year's worlds, which in turn determine the entries for the Olympics.
"(Firus) wasn't selfish and really thought about the men's team and the benefit and what he could do to make the team stronger for the Olympics, and the next world championships," Chan said. "It's just proof of how great Canadians are at being sportsmen and thinking not only about themselves but the rest of the team and the benefit of the country."