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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

Beatrice Chepkoech crushes steeplechase world record (video)

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Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech crushed the 3000m steeplechase world record by eight seconds at a Diamond League meet in Monaco on Friday.

Chepkoech clocked 8:44.32, easily beating Olympic champion Ruth Jebet‘s mark of 8:52.78. Coincidentally, the IAAF confirmed Friday that Bahrain’s Jebet, who was born in Kenya, has been suspended the last five months after testing positive for EPO.

Between Jebet and Chepkoech, the steeple world record has come down 14 seconds since the Rio Games. Chepkoech began competition running in 2011 and didn’t concentrate on the steeplechase until 2016.

“I was thinking maybe I can break 8:50, but not at all was I dreaming about 8:44,” Chepkoech said, according to meet organizers.

Chepkoech, 27, was best-known for missing the first water jump in the 2017 World Championships final, retracing her steps and recovering to finish fourth. That helped lead the way to the stunning U.S. one-two finish with Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs.

In Friday’s race, Frerichs broke Coburn’s American record by clocking 9:00.85 for second place.

Full Monaco results are here. The Diamond League moves to London for a two-day meet Saturday and Sunday (broadcast/stream info here).

In other Monaco events, Caster Semenya clocked her second-fastest 800m of all time to extend her near-three-year win streak. The Olympic and world champion clocked 1:54.60. Semenya’s personal best is still .97 shy of the world record.

“Today wanted to break 1:54 but maybe next time,” Semenya said. “I was not thinking about the world record today and actually it is not on my mind.”

A pursuit of the 35-year-old mark will be impacted severely if an IAAF rule limiting testosterone in female middle-distance runners goes into effect next season as scheduled. Semenya is challenging it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Noah Lyles won the 200m in 19.65 seconds, the world’s fastest time since Usain Bolt‘s last world title in 2015. Lyles, the U.S. 100m champion, remained undefeated in outdoor 200m races since finishing fourth at the Olympic Trials as an 18-year-old.

Lyles did a somersault when introduced before the race and a standing back flip celebrating afterward.

Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo won the 400m in the world’s fastest time in nine years — 49.97 seconds — edging world silver medalist Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain. Naser, 20, ran 49.08, destroying her Asian record of 49.55, but lost for the first time in nearly one year.

Botswana’s Nijel Amos ran the world’s fastest 800m since the epic 2012 Olympic final, clocking 1:42.14 against a field that did not include injured world-record holder David Rudisha.

Marie-Josée Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast won a deep 100m in 10.89 seconds, confirming she is currently the world’s fastest woman. Ta Lou also has the fastest time in the world this year of 10.85 and hasn’t lost over 100m in 2018. The race lacked world champion Tori Bowie, while Olympic champion Elaine Thompson was third in 11.02.

Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot took the 1500m in the fastest time in the world since the 2015 Monaco meet — 3:28.41. Cheruiyot, who came to Monaco with the world’s top three times this year, edged world champion Elijah Manangoi (3:29.64).

Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen, 17, was fourth in 3:31.18, taking 2.54 seconds off the U18 world record and nearly six seconds off his personal best, according to the IAAF. U.S. Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz was seventh in 3:31.77, his fastest time since Monaco 2015.

World silver medalist Soufiane El Bakkali became the first steeplechaser to break eight minutes in three years. The Moroccan won in 7:58.15, while U.S. Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager was second in 8:01.02.

Two-time Olympic champion Christian Taylor beat Cuban-born Portuguese rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo in the triple jump, leaping 17.86 meters.

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Suspect confesses to Denis Ten killing

AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — One of two men detained in Kazakhstan on suspicion of killing Olympic figure skating medalist Denis Ten has confessed, authorities said Friday.

Prosecutor Berik Zhuyrektayev said in a televised statement that Nuraly Kiyasov “confessed his guilt in the presence of an attorney” while being questioned over the 25-year-old skater’s death Thursday in the Kazakh city of Almaty.

The prosecutor didn’t give further details of what exactly Kiyasov had said.

Police have also detained 23-year-old Arman Kudaibergenov in connection with Ten’s death, which has prompted national mourning. Authorities released a picture of the disheveled-looking man being held by masked men wearing body armor and camouflage uniforms.

Ten was stabbed after a dispute with people who allegedly tried to steal a mirror from his car in his home city of Almaty. He died in hospital of massive blood loss from multiple wounds, the Kazinform news agency said.

Prosecutors are treating his death as murder.

Kazinform reported that Kiyasov was taken to the scene of the crime under heavy security Friday as part of the investigation.

Ten’s bronze in Sochi in 2014 made him Kazakhstan’s first Olympic medalist in figure skating. He also won the Four Continents Championships in 2015 and was a world silver medalist in 2013.

He struggled with injuries in recent years and could only finish 27th at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Ten had been working on a script in recent months which the Kazakh-Russian director Timur Bekmambetov said Friday would now be turned into a movie.

“We’re definitely going to try to realize his idea and shoot a film dedicated to this multi-talented person,” Bekmambetov said in comments released by Kazakhstan’s embassy to Russia. “In his 25 years, Ten managed to do very much and had grand plans which he would surely have put into practice because he was a real hard worker.”

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