TORONTO – In Patrick Chan’s perfect future, he’s running a skating school in Vancouver with girlfriend Liz Putnam. The two are living in a million-dollar apartment in the city’s lovely Kitsilano neighborhood. And he’s enjoying a wildly successful career in commercial real estate.
It’s been two months since Chan took one final spin around the competitive rink, but the three-time world champion has barely paused to reflect. He’s loving looking forward.
“I’m just running around town doing what I want to do, and moving on with a huge smile on my face. I feel good and light,” Chan said.
Chan announced Monday he is retiring from competition.
“I had three or four things lined up that I wanted to just learn about, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m meeting people and picking their brain and understanding what life is like. I don’t think I had any sense of that when I was in the competitive world.
“It’s awesome. I’m just a sponge again. I’m just absorbing and learning.”
The 27-year-old from Toronto, who sat out a season after the 2014 Sochi Olympics, was ninth in men’s singles at the Pyeongchang Olympics. But his terrific long program in the team event all but guaranteed Canada gold before dance duo Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir even stepped on the ice.
If he’d had any doubts about the comeback, that golden moment erased them.
“It would have been easy to be complacent and say `I don’t care, I’m just here to support the team and be a part of it,’ and I could’ve fallen back and said `I’ll let Tessa and Scott help me through this.’ I knew that this was my chance to shine and chance to prove I still had something to give,” he said.
“When I sat in that kiss and cry with my two different coaches right next to me smiling and having the entire team behind me as well, and having them all react to me winning … gosh that was a better feeling I think than winning individual gold. It’s a huge rush to see all these people that are genuinely smiling, and genuinely cheering, and they’re ecstatic; that’s so cool. To be able to say `I did it, we did it,’ that’s a very, very special feeling.”
The 10-time Canadian champion considered retiring after his silver-medal performance at the 2014 Games. And while his return wasn’t what he’d envisioned, he’s glad he came back.
“It wouldn’t have been fair to end after 2014, because I didn’t really have a good understanding of who I was and what my aspirations were and what I wanted from the sport. It just didn’t feel fulfilling, skating didn’t fulfil me completely.
“Now I basically have three highlights to my life: doing shows (such as Stars on Ice); getting familiar with the commercial real estate world, which has been a lot of fun; and finally, the third dream would be to have the skating rink going and building a skating program,” Chan said.
“I say to myself `Let’s see how everything unfolds one thing at a time.’ … That’s a reason why this time around just feels right. It wouldn’t have felt right after Sochi.”
If there are any regrets, it’s that he played his cards too early before Sochi. Chan dominated men’s skating for three years before those Olympics, and when he was the first to add two quadruple jumps to his free skate, the rest of the world followed suit, and eventually took the quad brigade a step further. American Nathan Chen does six quads in his long program.
“I hate going backwards, but if there is one regret … I would have been more strategic about adding the quads to the program, and built it one step at a time,” Chan said.
Moir described Chan as a skater best appreciated live.
“On TV, you can’t feel your hair blow back when you are close to him on the ice, because he has so much speed and command,” Moir said.
Chan will be known for his strength and speed on the ice, but also for artistry and exquisite skating skills that he hopes didn’t single him out as a dying breed in the sport.
“At the end of the day, the foundation of it all is the joy of skating and the glide and the power, that’s what’s amazing,” Chan said. “I think eventually quads will all look the same, they’ll all look like triples. But the one thing that can differentiate a skater and create excitement in the sport is what skaters can bring to the table when it comes to interpretation and how they can match the beautiful glide of skating to music and to a performance.
“I want to play a part in making sure people don’t forget how important that aspect is.”
To that end, Chan and Putnam, a skating coach and former pairs skater, envision opening a skating school and have already started laying the groundwork.
“That’s the dream … a base for young coaches in the area to come, and brainstorm and chat about skaters,” Chan said. “How we can make a certain skater better, and make it an individualized curriculum for each skater, and most importantly a fun environment for both skater and coach.”
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