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

IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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