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Patrick Chan prioritizes Olympic team event in last shot at gold

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Patrick Chan was the world’s best figure skater for three straight years.

Now 27 (that’s aging in skating), he’s leaning on help from other Canadians in a last bid for the Olympic gold medal that has eluded him.

Chan, who goes for his 10th national title this week, extols the Olympic team event that debuted in Sochi and returns for PyeongChang.

Canada took silver four years ago and appears closer to champion Russian this time around.

“It’s the event that I’m looking forward to the most, actually,” Chan said last week. “Our [Canada’s] approach to the team event is very different from Sochi. I think we’re taking the team event this time around a lot more seriously. It’s less of an experimental situation. It’s much more of a planned and thought-through opportunity for all of us to get a medal, to get a gold medal. It’s the best chance we ever have.”

In 2010, Chan went into the Olympics as the reigning world silver medalist looking to become the first teenage male singles champion since 1948.

He finished fifth in Vancouver, where he now trains and will compete to earn one of two Canadian Olympic men’s berths this weekend.

Chan then won three straight world titles from 2011 through 2013 but took silver at the Sochi Olympics behind Japanese teen Yuzuru Hanyu.

“My last two Olympics, I got off the ice disappointed,” Chan said, according to NBC Olympic Research, “because my expectations were based on things I can’t control. Like, ‘I’ve got to win the gold medal in Canada, or I’m the reigning [world] champion going into Sochi, so I must win.’”

Chan took a one-year break, then returned, but has not kept up with the quadruple-jump revolution of the last two to three years.

He was fifth at each of the last two world championships and ranks 21st in the world this season.

His chances of individual Olympic gold are remote, but Canada in this Olympic cycle has developed into arguably the world’s best all-around skating nation.

Chan was a leader, along with ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, in the 2014 Olympic team event.

Now he may be its biggest question mark.

Pairs skaters Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won the 2015 and 2016 World titles. Kaetlyn Osmond is the world silver medalist. And Virtue and Moir came back from a two-year break to claim last season’s world title.

Would a team gold mean just as much to Chan as the individual one that he missed?

“Absolutely, because a medal is a medal,” he said. “At this point in my career, anything at this point is a bonus. For me, going to the Olympics for a third time, that in itself is an achievement.”

Nobody is on the Olympic team yet, but it would be shocking if Chan doesn’t make it. His best score last season was more than 40 points higher than the next-best Canadian.

For Canada to win gold in the team event, Chan’s mini competition with Russia in the men’s portion may be pivotal. Finishing ahead of or behind Russia in either the short program of free skate means a multiple-point swing between the two favored nations.

Chan beat both Russians at last season’s worlds, but Russian men improved as a whole this season with three ranking ahead of Chan.

However, Chan only competed at one Grand Prix event this fall (and struggled), while most skaters had two or three events to post a top score for world ranking purposes.

Chan was fourth at Skate Canada in October, falling and making errors on most of his jumping passes in a seventh-place free skate.

In announcing his withdrawal before his November Grand Prix, Chan said he “never had a skate like that in a big event.”

He also changed training bases, moving back to Canada for the first time in seven years. Chan said last week that his environment in Michigan was “taking a toll” on his mental well-being before withdrawing from that second Grand Prix.

“Being back in Canada and not feeling like such a stranger as I go about my life every day,” he said.

Chan plans one quadruple jump in Friday’s short program and two in Saturday’s free skate, all quad toes. He has dropped the quad Salchow he had in addition to the toe last season.

“I took a bit of a more strategic approach, looking at what I’m capable of doing and where my strengths are,” he said. “I shouldn’t feel diminished at all. I think I can offer a lot in so many other ways than just quads.”

In 2010, Evan Lysacek won the Olympics without any quads. Next month, the Olympic champion will likely have two quads in his short program and at least four in his free skate.

“I’ve kind of lived the bridge between these two generations of skaters,” Chan said. “I hope I can just be one of those skaters who’s a bit of a Switzerland, right in the middle, and can show the benefits of a very technically sound skater and also a very artistically sound skater. I think that’s where my strengths lie. I know that nobody can do that. I’m the only skater that can offer that. I may be the last.”

Chan said in August 2016 that he would retire after the 2018 Olympic season. Chan said last week he hasn’t thought beyond PyeongChang, if he may compete one more time at the world championships in March.

“The result at the Olympics isn’t going to change people’s memory of me,” Chan said, according to NBC Olympic Research, “or the mark I’ve left on the sport.”

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MORE: Medal outlook for U.S. Olympic figure skating team

Eliud Kipchoge wins London Marathon; no world record (video)

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Eliud Kipchoge won his eighth straight marathon (ninth if you count Nike’s sub-two attempt), but missed the world record at a steamy London Marathon by more than one minute on Sunday.

The Kenyan Olympic champion clocked 2:04:17, pulling away from Ethiopian Tola Kitata by 32 seconds. Mo Farah, the four-time Olympic track champ in his second marathon, finished third in 2:06:21.

Kipchoge and Kitata fell off Dennis Kimetto‘s world-record pace around the 20th mile. Kimetto ran 2:02:57 at the 2014 Berlin Marathon.

Full results are here.

The temperature eclipsed 70 degrees Farenheit during the race, making it one of the hottest London Marathons ever. Perhaps considering that, Kipchoge said he ran “a beautiful race” for his third London title in four years.

“The conditions, I can’t complain, because all of us were running in the same arena,” he told media in London. “No regrets at all.”

Farah was satisfied, too, achieving his primary goal of breaking the 33-year-old British record held by Steve Jones.

“If you looked at the field before the start of that race, you would never have put me third place,” said Farah, who ran nearly two minutes faster than his marathon debut in London in 2014. “You would put ahead of me so many other guys.”

No world record in the women’s race, either. Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot won in 2:18:31, passing pre-race favorite Mary Keitany in the 23rd mile. Cheruiyot won by 1 minute, 42 seconds over countrywoman Brigid Kosgei. Keitany slowed to fifth in 2:24:27.

Cheruiyot, a 34-year-old mom, made her marathon debut in London last year, finishing fourth. Before that, Cheruiyot earned four Olympic medals on the track, plus four world titles combined in the 5000m and 10,000m.

Paula Radcliffe‘s world record with male pacers — 2:15:25 from 2003 — was a target for Keitany. Last year, Keitany broke Radcliffe’s world record without male pacers by 41 seconds, winning her third London title in 2:17:01.

The other leading contender Sunday, Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba, stopped in the 20th mile.

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MORE: Shalane Flanagan looks to future after last Boston Marathon

2018 London Marathon results

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Top finishers from the 38th London Marathon (full searchable results here) …

Men’s Elite
1. Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) 2:04:17
2. Tola Kitata (ETH) 2:04:49
3. Mo Farah (GBR) 2:06:21
4. Abel Kirui (KEN) 2:07:07
5. Bedan Karoki (KEN) 2:08:34
6. Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 2:08:53
7. Lawrence Cherono (KEN) 2:09:25
8. Daniel Wanjiru (KEN) 2:10:35
9. Amanuel Mesel (ERI) 2:11:52
10. Yohanes Gebregergish (ER) 2:12:09
17. Guye Adola (ETH) 2:32:35

Women’s Elite
1. Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) 2:18:31
2. Brigid Kosgei (KEN) 2:20:13
3. Tadelech Bekele (ETH) 2:21:40
4. Gladys Cherono (KEN) 2:24:10
5. Mary Keitany (KEN) 2:24:27
6. Rose Chelimo (BRN) 2:26:03
7. Mare Dibaba (ETH) 2:27:45
8. Lily Partridge (GBR) 2:29:24
9. Tracy Barlow (GBR) 2:32:09
10. Stephanie Bruce (USA) 2:32:28
DNF. Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH)

Men’s Wheelchair
1. David Weir (GBR) 1:31:15
2. Marcel Hug (SUI) 1:31:15
3. Daniel Romanchuk (USA) 1:31:16
4. Josh George (USA) 1:31:24
5. Kurt Fearnley (AUS) 1:31:24

Women’s Wheelchair
1. Madison de Rozario (AUS) 1:42:58
2. Tatyana McFadden (USA) 1:42:58
3. Susannah Scaroni (USA) 1:43:00
4. Manuela Schar (SUI) 1:43:01
5. Amanda McGrory (USA) 1:43:04

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MORE: Shalane Flanagan looks to future after last Boston Marathon