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

Patrick Chan
1 Comment

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

Jenny Simpson, most decorated U.S. miler, shifts focus with new Puma sponsorship

Jenny Simpson
Puma
0 Comments

Jenny Simpson, the most decorated U.S. female miler in history, plans to return to racing on Sunday with a new shoe sponsor, Puma.

Simpson, whose last race was the Cherry Blossom 10-mile road race in Washington, D.C., in September 2021, according to World Athletics, will run what she called “a little rust-buster” at the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C.

“My intention is to turn my focus to the roads,” Simpson, 36, wrote in an email. “I have some great PUMA spikes that I love so the track isn’t off the table. But my emphasis will be road racing.”

Last year’s Cherry Blossom was her first race longer than 5,000 meters, according to World Athletics. What are the chances she eventually moves up to the marathon distance?

“This new chapter is an exploration,” she answered. “I’m going to let the races, training, and coaching guide the next steps as they come. I know I can physically do it, it’s a matter of whether I can be great at it and my team and I will only go there if we think we can be competitive. So, let’s say for chances… 51% :)”

Simpson made her first Olympic team in 2008 in the 3000m steeplechase, then in 2012 and 2016 in the 1500m, earning a bronze medal in Rio. She is the lone U.S. woman to win a world 1500m title (2011) or an Olympic 1500m medal.

From 2007 through 2019, Simpson finished in the top three in one of the 1500m, 5000m or 3000m steeplechase at all 13 annual USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Last year, she was 10th in the Olympic Trials 1500m in a bid to become the oldest U.S. Olympic 1500m runner in history, according to Olympedia.org.

Simpson focused much of her time this year helping her Colorado community heal and rebuild from a late December fire. She did not enter the USATF Outdoors for the first time since 2006.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Mikaela Shiffrin, checklist complete, carries lessons into new World Cup season

Mikaela Shiffrin
Atomic
0 Comments

Mikaela Shiffrin said she hit every possible statistical goal in the first 11 years of her Alpine skiing career. Keep that in mind as the storyline the next few seasons may turn to the World Cup wins record.

Shiffrin, who begins her 12th World Cup season in Soelden, Austria, in two weeks, is up to 74 victories on the circuit. The 27-year-old ranks third all-time behind Lindsey Vonn, who owns the women’s record of 82 wins, and Swede Ingemar Stenmark, who has the overall record of 86.

Shiffrin did rounds of interviews Thursday at the media day for her ski sponsor, Atomic. In one sitdown streamed by Atomic, she was asked, “Are you aiming for the record? … There’s just 12 left. Normally, winning 12 races, that’s a lot, but you already won 74, so it doesn’t sound that much anymore.”

“Just 12,” Shiffrin joked. “If you look at it like that, but that’s maybe oversimplification.” (Note greats including Americans Picabo Street and Julia Mancuso didn’t win 12 World Cups over a career.)

Then Shiffrin asked if the interviewer did in fact say 74 — “Yeah, you have 74,” the interviewer confirmed to Shiffrin, who sat between fellow stars Sofia Goggia of Italy and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway.

“Even after 74 … one race feels like a lot,” Shiffrin continued. “Twelve [wins] still feels like a large mountain to climb, for sure, but it’s step by step or race by race. If I just focus on what’s coming in the next couple weeks and then keep going from there, then we’ll see.”

From 2017 to 2019, Shiffrin won 11, 12 and 17 times on the World Cup. Her last three seasons were abbreviated after her father’s death, the COVID-19 pandemic and back problems. She still won an average of five races each year.

In an earlier interview Thursday, Shiffrin expressed confidence about her preseason form. She followed February’s Beijing Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth, by bagging her fourth World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in the sport, crowning the best all-around skier.

“Finishing off [at last March’s World Cup Finals] in Meribel, that final race of the season, I was thinking, I could use a moment to breathe,” she said. “There was also this part of me that’s like, I kind of didn’t want this to be the last race. I was a little bit antsy to actually get going on the next season already.”

Shiffrin took less of a break than a year ago, spending 10 days in Maui. She had “really productive” training camps in Colorado, Switzerland and Chile and arrived back in Europe on Wednesday for the run-up to the World Cup opener on Oct. 22.

As always, the priority is keeping her slalom and giant slalom technique top-notch. As long as that’s flowing, Shiffrin feels comfortable branching into the speed events, starting with super-Gs. She plans to race both the slalom and GS at February’s world championships, then possibly the super-G with the combined less of a priority. The downhill is “fairly doubtful,” but she has a few months to make a final decision.

Of course, Shiffrin raced everything at the Olympics in February. In interviews last winter, she couldn’t quite explain why the greatest technical skier in history did not finish any of her three technical runs at the Games.

Shiffrin gave a detailed, two-and-a-half-minute answer when asked Thursday if she went back during this offseason to analyze those races. Or if she is brushing them off as an anomaly.

“Statistically, it’s an anomaly, but there was a lot of culminating factors that could have been involved,” she said.

In basic terms, she got on her inside ski in the opening GS and fell within 13 seconds — “a technical flaw that had a much higher consequence than it’s ever had in any other race that I’ve ever done.” In slalom, she had too much intensity, or too much speed, in a section that required more precision and skidded out within six seconds — “I was not giving anything away, and then I gave everything away.”

“There was less margin for error in Beijing because of the snow conditions,” said Shiffrin, who like every other racer hadn’t previously raced on that slope of manufactured snow. “I don’t think I maybe considered that enough in the moment when I was skiing to kind of reel it in sometimes when it would have been necessary. But I also wasn’t skiing to reel it in or make it to the finish. I was skiing to like, blow the course apart. I was going for it.”

She hopes to take that mentality into this season. In the spring and summer, she devoted more time to developing equipment that works better on softer snow, which is becoming more commonplace at World Cup venues given warmer temperatures.

“If you have a checklist of goals you want to achieve before you retire, actually, my checklist is complete,” she said. “If I had one, it would be complete. Somehow, I feel like I still have something left to accomplish, or faster skiing to do, so that’s kind of why I’m here. Hopefully I can remember that when there’s points in the season that feel stressful or pressure. There’s nothing that has to be done.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!