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Patrick Chan honours late coach by returning to ‘greatest hits’

Canadian three time world figure skating champion Patrick Chan unveils his new free program for the season at Skate Canada's Summer Skate in Markham, Ont. on Sunday August 18 , 2013.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Patrick Chan debuted his new free skate before an audience for the first time on Sunday, and the favourite for Gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics says he's going back to what's familiar and comfortable.

At a small summer competition at the Thornhill Community Centre, Canada's 22-year-old three-time world champion performed his long program for the upcoming season to music from Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons , a composer to whom he skated in 2007 and 2008. Chan's newest program is one he calls a "greatest hits", full of favourite elements from his past programs. It is also a tribute to his late coach Osborne Colson, who was like a grandfather to him.

"I'm not trying to do crazy moves or push the envelope – this is not the season to do that," said Chan after the skate. "This is the season to go back to what is comfortable, what makes you happy, what makes you enjoy skating, what makes you skate the best. There are a lot of highlights in the program from several other programs that I did well. There are reminders of things Mr. Colson would have me do as a younger skater."

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The legendary coach, who died in 2006 at age 90, had worked with Canadian icons like Barbara Ann Scott and Donald Jackson. Colson trained Chan from the beginning of the youngster's career and he was at his deathbed when he passed away.

"It's extremely emotional because he played a big role in the music and the choreography, and because this is the Olympics that I can really give it my best and hopefully bring something to Canada that no one has ever brought," said Chan, who hopes to be the first Canadian male figure skater to win Olympic gold in singles. "It gives me chills to think that I have that responsibility, but that's what I live for and what great moments are made from." The program is challenging, starting with his signature quadruple jumps. His top-of-the-world footwork is highlighted throughout, as it winds to a final dramatic spinning crescendo, which one can envision for the Olympic stage.

"This program is Patrick, he skates well to this, it really says comfort and while it goes by fast, it highlights his excellent skating skills," said Michael Slipchuk, High Performance Director at Skate Canada. "It's a great vehicle for his Olympic year. Sometimes you go back to what is comfortable and what motivates you. When I heard he was skating to this, I knew it would be great."

Chan hungers after the Olympic medal that eluded him as a 19-year-old first-time Olympian in Vancouver, where he finished fifth.

He is sticking with the short program he skated last season to Elegie in E-Flat Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff, so he did not skate that program in Thornhill.

Chan made changes to his coaching staff last offseason and then had a very inconsistent season, causing many to wonder if he had made the right decisions. After some early lacklustre results, he finished by winning his third world championship in London, Ont. There he skated a sensational short program for a world record score. But he struggled in his free skate to La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini. He tumbled on two jumps and did not win the free skate portion but claimed victory on the strength of his short program. He left hungering to skate that one clean, powerful free skate on closing night of a big competition.

"La Bohème dragged along and felt long for me sometimes, but this one has so many highlights that I like, and it flies by," said Chan. "It's all coming together. I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully I can finish on the podium in Sochi."

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Sports reporter

Based in Toronto, Rachel Brady writes on a number of sports for The Globe and Mail, including football, tennis and women's hockey. More


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