Patrick Chan is at home in the Hershey Centre, where 11 or 12 years ago at a national championships he competed as a juvenile skater. He could barely see over the boards.
Now 20, he returns to the suburban Toronto arena at Skate Canada International this week as the reigning (and dominating) world figure skating champion and the Japan Open champion.
Earlier this month, he was part of a North American team at the Japan Open that included former world champion Jeff Buttle and Olympic bronze medalist Joannie Rochette. Team North America, also including Alissa Czisny of the United States, won the gold medal for the first time in the six years of the event.
Chan had the highest score of any of the male skaters in the event, but mostly the Japan Open served as the debut of his new long program to Concierto de Aranjuez.
The Japan Open gave him a feel for competing again.
"It was a bit shaky," he said, of the routine in Japan. He didn't have much time to train it before he went to Japan, he said, and he'd been paying so much attention to the performance aspect of the program that he hadn't been minding the elements. "Technically, I knew it wouldn't be great," he said.
In the competition, he landed just one of two quads. But he felt strong in the final minute and a half of the four-minute program, a section he likes the best.
The test this week at the Grand Prix series event is to complete the technical as well as the artistic side. Last year, Chan fell three times at Skate Canada – but he still won.
Last season was a good example of Chan taking charge and control of all the aspects of being an elite athlete that led to him winning the world title, he said.
He's now become what he calls a more "selfish" athlete. Not in the sense that he's going to steal the ice away from all of his competitors, but that he'd really like to see himself as the overwhelming favourite for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
"I am really focused on myself, how to improve myself," he said. Before the 2010 Olympics, when he was 19, he got a lot of opinions and advice from a lot of people, he said, but, "I wasn't really picking the good apples out of the bad."
One of the biggest things he's learned is to take charge of his own career. "I take what I want to do from what I see is best for me, because I think I've become more of a mature skater," he said.
After winning the world title by about six points last April, Chan said his motivation comes from within. He doesn't look to compete against anyone, but against himself. "I see that I've changed quite a bit from last year," he said. "I'm just looking to improve myself every day."
Both Olympic champion Evan Lysacek and Olympic silver medalist Evgeni Plushenko are still intent on competing, but Lysacek has pulled out of the Grand Prix series after a dispute with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, while Plushenko injured himself coming back too soon from knee surgery – and then he broke his wrist recently.
Chan would like to take them on again. "I'm a very competitive person," he said.
For now, Chan would like to qualify for the Grand Prix series final, which is in Quebec City in December. Skate Canada International is the first step to do that.