Patrick Chan

Patrick Chan’s return about more than elusive Olympic gold medal

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Patrick Chan initially felt like his peak had passed after taking silver at the Sochi Olympics, but Canada’s three-time World champion will return to figure skating competition after one year off not necessarily to earn more medals but to expand his skating repertoire.

“Of course, some people may say, oh, you’re coming back because you want to win an Olympic gold medal,” Chan said Tuesday. “Sure, maybe that’s at the back of my mind, but that’s something I want to learn to and teach myself in the next couple of years to not look at coming back and competing because of a medal, just a stupid, little medal.”

Chan quickly corrected himself.

“It’s not very little,” he said. “It’s very big and heavy.”

Chan, 24, said he would have returned to competition even if he became the first Canadian men’s figure skater to grab Olympic gold in 2014. He said any achievements the rest of his career will be “a bonus.”

“For example, after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, I thought I had done the best I could and thought I had already improved as much as I could, but little did I know I still had a lot to improve on and get better,” said Chan, who finished fifth as a teenager under host-nation pressure in 2010. “After the Games in Sochi, I felt like I had peaked, but I spoke to Kathy [Johnson], my coach, and we both decided I still have a lot to achieve, not necessarily results-wise but more personal achievement as in expanding my vocabulary in movement and my vocabulary in skating and choreography and being able to express and skate different kinds of style and become a better, more well-rounded skater.”

Chan said in September that he would return to competition in the 2015-16 season after taking the 2014-15 season off. Expect to see a different skater this fall. For one, Chan said he will add vocal lyrics to his skating, to a type of music he hasn’t performed to before.

Chan’s perspective was molded by activities where his “life [was] on the line” in his season away from competition — such as back-country skiing and skydiving. He also has an ice wine label coming out in June.

The 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Joannie Rochette convinced Chan to skydive while on the Stars on Ice tour in Florida.

“Joannie has jumped many times,” said Chan, who also planned to go skydiving with Rochette and other skaters later Tuesday in Montreal.

Chan said he was very scared and “contemplated life” while skydiving. He compared the feeling inside while ascending in an airplane to the six-minute warm-up before an Olympics or World Championships medal skate.

“Waiting and waiting,” he said. “The anticipation was very similar. But the minute I jumped out, for sure the first two, three seconds were the scariest, but after that such a great rush. … It makes me realize how small I am, and not to bash on the figure skating world, but how small the figure skating world is.”

Chan stayed abreast of men’s figure skating in his absence. He watched some competitions, but not all. The only World Championships event he said he watched live was the ice dance.

Chan said he skimmed through the programs of World Championships gold medalist Javier Fernandez and silver medalist Yuzuru Hanyu on YouTube.

“That in itself says a lot, the fact that I skimmed through it,” said Chan, who won the 2011, 2012 and 2013 World Championships before being toppled by Hanyu at the Sochi Olympics. “It wasn’t because I dislike them. … I admire a lot of elements of their programs, it’s just that that’s what it is. I literally fast-forwarded to their jumps, their biggest jumps, and then that’s it. I stopped watching. … Their skating hasn’t changed. It doesn’t look like it’s any different. They’re skating to the same pieces of music style. Javi has that like a Charlie Chaplin style. It totally works for him. It’s great, but I’d like to see him do a classical piece.

“I found that the men’s event [for the whole season] was, as I expected, nothing too special, no offense. It was very exciting competition. Of course, technically, everyone did all the quads. We’ve had two, three seasons of these quads coming back into the men’s field, so that’s to be seen as to be expected now. I look to the skaters who are pushing the boundaries, program-wise.”

Like the French ice dance couple of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who at 19 and 20 became the youngest World ice dance champs in 40 years. Chan said he got goosebumps watching their “enchanted” skating on his computer on a desk.

“It’s not just the guns blazing, just the jumps,” Chan said. “I like the subtlety of enjoying actual skating that’s actually beautiful and tells the story.”

Chan and his coach had talks about coming back, and the skater summed his mindset.

“I’m still young, I’m still healthy, knock on wood, so why not take advantage of that?” he said. “I don’t want to be 40 years old and look back and say, Patrick, you should have gone for it instead of hesitating.”

Figure skaters recall odd gifts from fans

USA Gymnastics closes Karolyi Ranch

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USA Gymnastics said it will no longer use the Karolyi Ranch in Texas as its training center, where athletes said Larry Nassar sexually abused gymnasts.

“USA Gymnastics has terminated its agreement with the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas,” USA Gymnastics CEO and president Kerry Perry said in a press release Thursday. “It will no longer serve as the USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center.

“It has been my intent to terminate this agreement since I began as president and CEO in December. Our most important priority is our athletes, and their training environment must reflect this. We are committed to a culture that empowers and supports our athletes.

“We have cancelled next week’s training camp for the U.S. Women’s National Team. We are exploring alternative sites to host training activities and camps until a permanent location is determined. We thank all those in the gymnastics community assisting in these efforts.”

MORE: Nassar calls hearing ‘media circus’ as Olympic gymnasts testify

World champions Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols said that Nassar sexually abused gymnasts at the ranch.

“When I was 15 I started to have back problems while at a National Team Camp at the Karolyi Ranch,” Nichols wrote in a victim impact statement read at one of Nassar’s sentencing hearings on Wednesday and published last week. “This is when the changes in his medical treatments occurred.

“I trusted what he was doing at first, but then he started touching me in places I really didn’t think he should. He didn’t have gloves on and he didn’t tell me what he was doing. There was no one else in the room and I accepted what he was doing because I was told by adults that he was the best doctor and he could help relieve my pain.

“He did this ‘treatment’ on me, on numerous occasions.”

Raisman, a three-time Olympic champion, urged USA Gymnastics to close the ranch in a Tuesday interview on ESPN.

“I hope USA Gymnastics listens because they haven’t listened to us so far,” she said. “I hope they listen, and I hope they don’t make any of the girls go back to the ranch. No one should have to go back there after, you know, so many of us were abused there.”

Simone Biles did not specifically name the Karolyi Ranch in her Monday statement, but Raisman said Tuesday that Biles was referring to that site.

“It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences and it breaks my heart even more to think that as I work towards my dream of competing at Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused,” was posted on Biles’ social media.

Jamie Dantzscher, a 2000 Olympian, said Nassar was alone with her in her bed at the ranch.

“There was no one else sent with him,” she said on CBS last year. “The treatment was in the bed, in my bed that I slept on at the ranch.”

USA Gymnastics said in July 2016 that it reached an agreement with former national team coordinators Bela and Martha Karolyi to purchase the training facility the couple owned.

The national governing body backed out of the purchase in May “for a variety of reasons” but continued under its current lease agreement while exploring alternative locations for camps. It held national team camps there in September and November.

The Karolyis established the ranch in 1983 after defecting from Romania. It had been a national team training center since 2001.

Larry Nassar calls hearing ‘media circus’ as Olympic gymnasts testify

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A statement from McKayla Maroney read Thursday repeated that sexual assault by Larry Nassar “left scars” in her mind that may never fade as a judge heard a third day of testimony from victims.

Nassar could be sentenced Friday in Lansing. Since Tuesday, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina has been listening to dozens of young women who were molested after seeking his help for injuries.

Aquilina started the hearing Thursday by saying Nassar had written a letter fearing that his mental health wasn’t strong enough to sit and listen to a parade of victims. He called the hearing “a media circus.”

The judge dismissed it as “mumbo jumbo.”

“Spending four or five days listening to them is minor, considering the hours of pleasure you’ve had at their expense, ruining their lives,” Aquilina said.

Nassar, 54, faces a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years in prison for molesting girls as a doctor for Michigan State University and at his home.

He also was a team doctor at USA Gymnastics for nearly two decades. He’s already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes.

“Dr. Nassar was not a doctor,” Maroney said in a statement read by a prosecutor (Maroney’s statement was previously posted in the fall). “He left scars on my psyche that may never go away.”

USA Gymnastics in 2016 reached a financial settlement with Maroney that barred her from making disparaging remarks. But the organization this week said it would not seek any money for her “brave statements.”

A 2000 Olympian, Jamie Dantzscher, looked at Nassar and said, “How dare you ask any of us for forgiveness.”

“Your days of manipulation are over,” she said. “We have a voice. We have the power now.”

Nassar wasn’t the only target. Victims also criticized Michigan State and USA Gymnastics.

Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon attended part of the session Wednesday. The school is being sued by dozens of women, who say campus officials wrote off complaints about the popular doctor.

“Guess what? You’re a coward, too,” current student and former gymnast Lindsey Lemke said Thursday, referring to Simon.

The judge has been praising each speaker and criticizing Nassar.

It’s “about their control over other human beings and feeling like God and they can do anything,” Aquilina said of sex offenders.

On Jan. 31, Nassar will get another sentence for sexual assaults at a Lansing-area gymnastics club in a different county.