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Patrick Chan of Canada performs his free program in the men's competition at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final Saturday, December 10, 2011 in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Jacques Boissinot/CP

He's only 20 years old, and his career is only beginning, but on Tuesday, figure skater Patrick Chan won the Lou Marsh award as Canada's top athlete.

The award has been presented annually since 1936 to Canada's top male or female athlete, professional or amateur.

Chan is the most recent figure skater to win the award, the last being Olympic pair champions Jamie Sale and David Pelletier in 2001, the year they won the world championships.

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"I am deeply honoured to win this very special and very historic award," said Chan, who won the Grand Prix Final in Quebec City on Saturday. "To be considered in the same category as so many amazing Canadian athletes when it is still this early in my career is very humbling."

With his powerful glide, and powerful quads – new for him last season – Chan chalked up a string of wins during 2011. He went undefeated, winning his fourth Canadian title in January, when he unveiled two quadruple jumps in his free program for the first time.

In April, he won the world championships in Moscow, and demolished three world records, despite having to alter his training routine because the event was delayed. An earthquake and tsunami in Japan scuttled the scheduled event, and it was moved to Moscow a month later.

His flawless skate helped him win by a landslide – 22.57 points.

He set a world record of 93.02 point for the short program, 187.96 for the free program and an overall score of 280.98, which overhauled the previous mark of 264.41 set in 2008.

This fall, Chan won both of his Grand Prix events in Canada and France and topped it off with a win at the Final last week.

"He has truly established himself as the dominant male skater in the world and we are pleased that the selection committee for this award acknowledged that for the remarkable athletic accomplishments that it truly is," said William Thompson, chief executive officer of Skate Canada.

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"We've had many amazing world and Olympic champions from Canada, but he is certainly one of the finest, hardest working athletes I've ever seen in the sport. His ability to put aside all of the distractions and to focus on skating his heart out at every competition was certainly evident this past weekend in Quebec City, as he defended his Grand Prix title."

The Lou Marsh award is named in honour of the former Toronto Star sports editor. A panel of sports journalists votes on the award. The competition was stiff.

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