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pyeongchang 2018

Patrick Chan celebrates after performing his free program during the senior men's competition at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Vancouver on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

When his first pre-Olympic practice session came to an end this week, Patrick Chan skated over to the edge of the rink for a brief chat with his coach. But after lingering too long, a voice boomed over the public-address system with an order: "Patrick Chan… Please leave the ice."

It was an unceremonious way to boot the former three-time world champion off the rink, but it was perhaps a little symbolic of his biggest challenge in Pyeongchang. He knows these will be his last Olympics, and all Chan wants is to control how he leaves.

When it comes to the competition, that means skating cleanly this time around, even if it means skating conservatively. It's how he wants to go out.

"I've never skated a clean program [at the Olympics] or gotten off the ice feeling really proud of what I've done," Chan said. "That's all I want."

Four years ago, he entered the Sochi Olympics riding high, having reeled off three consecutive world championships. Only Olympic glory eluded him, and Chan was intent on winning Canada's first-ever gold medal in men's figure skating.

Canada’s Olympic figure skating team includes several veterans set to retire after Pyeongchang. Patrick Chan, Eric Radford and Scott Moir spoke after the team was announced Sunday about their emotions heading into their final Games.

The Canadian Press

But those dreams were dashed when he stumbled on two of his three most difficult jumps – both quads – and, in doing so, handed the gold medal to Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. The disappointment tore at Chan, prompting him to take a break from skating before returning to continue his record string of Canadian championships, which now sits at 10.

At 27, he sees himself as a much wiser skater who is still capable of big things, even though he is no longer mentioned as a gold-medal favourite amid a cast of rising young stars.

That has shifted Chan's approach. In Sochi, his game plan was all about contending for the gold and dealing with the pressure that came with it. Now the spotlight is on Hanyu and Shoma Uno of Japan, Javier Fernandez of Spain, and American jumping sensation Nathan Chen.

With less pressure bearing down on him, Chan says he's confident in his abilities – and content with leaving everything else up to fate.

"The best chance I can give myself is by skating the programs I have been training. And I've been feeling really confident about that," he said. "I don't even want to think about placement."

It's a change from the last Olympics, where it was podium or bust. But men's figure skating has gone through an evolution since Sochi, and Chan, who's always been known for his power, his jumps and his footwork, now finds himself behind the curve. His contemporaries are attempting more quadruples than ever – a point driven home this season when Chen became the first to land five quads in competition.

But Chan believes the trend has led to more wear and tear on skaters, and the sport is now pulling back from its obsession with quads as a result.

"There was a peak last year with how many men were doing quads, including Nathan [Chen]," he said. "And I think now we're seeing a bit of a plateau, things are flattening out, things are becoming a little more normal, [after] a little bit of injuries here and there. So I think we're starting to see maybe the after effects of the skaters pushing the envelope so much."

Chan has two quads in his long program for Pyeongchang – both quad toe loops, along with two triple Axels – and said he wouldn't be opposed to adding a quadruple Salchow depending on how he was feeling. "I have been practicing it a little bit," he said. But it's not his preference.

His best shot at a medal comes in the team event, where the deep Canadian squad is looking to improve upon the silver they won in 2014.

After his first two Olympic experiences – in Vancouver in 2010, where he placed fifth as a rookie, and in Sochi, where he watched the gold slip away – Chan wants to leave being able to say he skated flawlessly on the sport's biggest stage.

"I just hope, either in the team event or in the individual event, to be able to, like, take a deep breath and take the whole moment in – and not be drawn away from the joy of the Olympics by a disappointing performance," he said.

And if that means skating a bit conservatively, at 27, he's fine with it.

"Quads are very exciting to watch but they're so quick and they're very short moments in the program… I don't really enjoy it."