HALIFAX — Out with the new and in with the old.
Patrick Chan, after a one-season step-out from competition, is back in familiar territory: Top of the podium at the Canadian figure skating championships.
Eight titles and counting.
Defending champ Nam Nguyen, who made it all look so effortless collecting gold as a skinny little teenager last year — in Chan’s absence — comes home to Toronto out of the medals and out of sorts, wondering if he’s been betrayed by his own rapidly changing body: four-inch growth spurt between the age of 16 and 17. Five-foot-10 at the moment, most un-skating dimensions.
“I won’t use that as an excuse,” insisted Nam, after finishing fourth in the men’s competition Saturday night, have fallen in both his quad attempts.
Couldn’t catch either Liam Firus or Kevin Reynolds, silver and bronze respectively.
Only Chan and Firus will go to Worlds.
For Chan, who’s had an up-down comeback season, the Canadians was like coming home.
“It doesn’t get harder,” he said, of the once-twice-eight-times a champion. “It’s just different experiences every time. So that’s the hard part — there’s not one nationals that’s the same. The nervousness, the excitement — it’s all different. Different environment, different ice surfaces, different guys you’re competing against.’’
This was a more familiar Chan, with solid jumping prowess and impeccable landings, at least through the first half of his Chopin routine, as the 25-year-old reeled off two easy-peasy quads. But Chan doubled down on a couple of triples late in the program.
Didn’t hurt him, as he earned a free skate score of 192.09, 295.67 overall, nearly 60 points clear of Firus.
“This is a great step forward, having done the second quad finally in the program. It kind of gassed me for the second Axel so I’m not quite there yet. But that’s okay. It’s a work in progress.
“It’s a long journey to the Olympics, if I can make it. So I don’t want to rush anything. I want to really take my time, do everything with quality, not just rushing to get it done.”
For Nam, it’s a time of anxiety, sinking back among the also-rans. He was not in a self-forgiving mood.
“No. Never. I cannot forgive myself for this entire season, to be honest with you. This season has been so bad for me.’’
The sudden height elongation isn’t an excuse but it is an explanation for his jumping difficulties.
“I’m doing what I can, you know? My size, I’m just pushing through as hard as I can do what everyone else is doing and even better. It’s just a matter of pushing harder.
“I’ll have to change the way I train, the way I think,” he vowed. “Especially in competition. I need to push myself harder. It’s definitely not as easy as last season.”
In pairs, the depth and richness of Canadian skating was evident in the final flight of four teams.
Of course Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford — reigning world champions — defended their title, making it five in a row on a combined score of 221.75. That followed a defective short program 24 hours earlier that left Duhamel fuming, mostly angry with herself over a botched Lutz. But that short routine has been vexing all season and might very well end up the deciding factor on medal colour at the worlds in March.
“That was hard,” said Duhamel. “The teams before us skated really well and they put up big numbers.
“We had to do our job. We couldn’t melt down. We couldn’t have a performance like (Friday). And we knew that, getting into our starting position.’’
It was a much more assured effort, with a routine — to Adele’s Hometown Glory — that has been marks-rewarding all season. There were a couple of bobbles: Radford’s hand-down on side-bye side Lutzes; Duhamel on a triple toe jump. Enough to suggest this is a team showing some worrisome vulnerabilities whilst Worlds-bound, and after failing to repeat-triumph at the Grand Prix final.
Radford saw it differently, through a smile of relief.
“I think we needed that type of skate on two different levels — in this moment and in the long-term time frame, heading into Worlds. We felt a lot more in control and in the right mindset. As Meagan says, we’ve always had our best skates in pressure situations, even though it’s more uncomfortable beforehand. But it brings out the best in us. You can almost thank Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau for having such a great skate because it really pushed us.’’
Seguin and Bilodeau, midway through their first season as seniors, received a standing ovation from the Scotiabank Centre crowd at the end of a surprisingly mature routine skated to A Whiter Shade of Pale.
They finished 10 points behind Duhamel and Radford but earned a complimentary shout-out from the champs. Duhamel: “It’s the first time this season we’ve stepped on the ice feeling pressure from the team before us, to be honest.’’
Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch won bronze on a score of 204.22.
All three teams have punched their ticket for Worlds.