LOS ANGELES – Patrick Chan stood on the medal podium, a grin stretched across his young face. And while it may not have been the top step, it was still a million miles from where the Canadian was at this time last year.
The 18-year-old from Toronto, who a year ago was little more than a sidekick to Canadian veteran Jeffrey Buttle, jumped, spun and danced his way out of the shadows for good Thursday night, capturing a silver medal in the men’s singles at the world figure skating championships.
“Jeez, I thought I was just going to walk home with a bronze but to win a silver medal is just like icing on the cake,” Chan said. “Getting off the ice I had a huge smile on my face because I just didn’t expect to be where I am now after just my second worlds, and I’m only 18. It’s a big shock.”
Chan, who was third after Wednesday’s short program, scored 155.03 and landed eight triples in free skate to music by Rachmaninov, finishing with 237.58 points overall.
“It’s going to be weird going back to high school because I have to be a regular guy again. It’s going to be hard to come back to reality. I have an essay due in a week,” he said with a laugh.
American Evan Lysacek, second after the short program, gave a flawless performance in the free skate to win gold with a total score of 243.23.
“Well, tonight I wasn’t thinking about winning, I wasn’t even thinking about medalling.” Lysacek said. “I just wanted to skate well for my hometown crowd of L.A.”
“I’ve been looking forward to this event for last few years, ever since I found out it was coming to the Staples Center. I love this building. I’m here to cheer on the Lakers and Kings as much as I can. I think that nervous energy was a positive for me because I turned it into adrenalin.”
Brian Joubert of France, the 2007 world champion who led after the short program, finished third with a total score of 235.97. Joubert fell near the end of his program coming out of a triple Salchow.
“I felt strong at the beginning of the program. After the first two jumps I thought I’d skate clean,” Joubert said. “The error on the second triple Axel cost me concentration.
“I know I could have done better. I was ready to get the gold medal. I can’t complain about the placement, I’m third, that’s OK. Obviously I’m very disappointed. I have to take something from this defeat for the Olympic year.”
Calgary’s Vaughn Chipeur finished 12th with a total score of 202.08, while Jeremy Ten of Vancouver moved up from 21st place to finish 17th with a score of 193.16. Both are making their world championship debut.
Chan is the picture of calm when he steps on the ice, his grace and ease showing a maturity that’s beyond his years. And if there were any nerves Thursday night as one of the favourites on the world’s biggest skating stage, they certainly didn’t show.
“What really stood out today was that rink was just silent, when he starts his slow part he just captures the crowd,” said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada’s high performance director. “He makes it look so easy, you don’t realize how difficult the stuff is.”
He landed his two triple Axels with ease, a jump that has given him troubles at times this season, and was surprised, he said after, how easily he cruised through the beginning of his program.
“The first three jumps went so easily, all of a sudden I was thinking, ‘I’m at worlds and I’m doing my long program. It was as if I just woke up, and I realized I was already a quarter into the program and I just had to keep my focus,” Chan said. “It’s just putting it together like a puzzle, it’s like a thousand-piece puzzle, there’s so much stuff and to have a perfect program would be to have everything tie in perfectly, between jumps and spins, it has to tie in perfectly.”
Chan’s only discernable error came when he caught a toe on the toe-loop in a combination.
“I think I rushed the second jump,” he said. “Overall, I was happy to stay on my feet the whole program.”
Chan was ninth in his world championship debut last year in Sweden, won by Buttle, but with Buttle’s retirement and Chan’s spectacular season heading into L.A., the young skater found himself himself a favourite here. He had opened the season with a pair of Grand Prix victories, won the Canadian championships, and then dominated a strong field to win the ISU Four Continents last year in Vancouver.
This week has certainly been a learning experience for Chan. He stirred up some controversy earlier, taking a verbal swing at Joubert for the Frenchman’s criticism over the state of men’s skating, and the low number of skaters who don’t do quads. Buttle didn’t do a quad in winning last year, Chan doesn’t have a quad in his programs, and Lysacek won this year’s title without a quad.
Joubert opened with a quad Salchow and looked en route to a possible victory before his tumble on his final jump of the program.
With the stress of the long week behind him, Chan was asked how he really felt now that it’s over, to which he replied: “I just feel like going home and playing video games. . . seriously.”
Earlier Thursday, Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir took their first tumble in their road back from injury, but the ice dancing duo are still poised to reach the podium at the world figure skating championships.
The reigning world silver medallists were a disappointing sixth in the original dance portion, but managed to hold on to third place overall.
“A little bit of a difficult performance today, it wasn’t obviously a personal best,” Moir said. “We were still obviously able to perform, really show the program and we always have fun … so we just tried to focus on that. It was a lot of motivation for us going into the free dance, and we’ll be looking to knock that out of the park (Friday).”
Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., who were third after the compulsory dance, earned just 61.05 points for their rendition of the Charleston, and go into Friday’s free dance with a score of 100.42 overall and some considerable ground to make up if they want to improve on their position.
Russians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin scored 64.68, enough to hold on to first place overall with 105.45. Kingston, Ont.-born Tanith Belbin and partner Ben Agosto of the U.S., the obvious crowd favourites, scored 65.15 for their original dance and sit second with a total 104.81.
“Obviously we’ve fallen back a bit more than we were at the beginning of the day,” Moir said. “Obviously it was not our plan, but we’re still in third and I don’t think that changes what we want to do, and that’s to show that we’re the best in the world and we have the best free dance in the world, and it doesn’t stop us from showing that (Friday).”
The Canadians’ free dance is an innovative piece to music from Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.”
Vanessa Crone of Aurora, Ont., and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., who are making their world championship debut, are 11th heading into the free dance after earning 54.75 points for their ragtime dance for a total 88.08 overall.
Virtue, 19, and Moir, 21, have bounced back from missing the entire fall season, and all but one international competition – the ISU Four Continents last month in Vancouver where they were second – after Virtue underwent surgery in October to alleviate the chronic pain in her shins caused by compartment syndrome.
“It’s nice to be training, we didn’t have too much under our belts before Four Continents and nationals,” said Moir. “Training has been going really well, it’s been really productive, and it’s so nice to come into a competition and be ready for it. I don’t know if I was ready to be ready for it, I wasn’t thinking as much as I probably should have been.”