TORONTO (Reuters) - Patrick Chan is hoping the acknowledgement that his biggest enemy may well be himself could propel him to figure skating gold at the Pyeongchang Olympics at the third time of asking.
Chan, who finished fifth in Vancouver in 2010, clinched silver behind Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu in Sochi, where he had been favoured to win.
The result made the now 27-year-old the latest in a long line of Canadian male skaters who just missed the top podium place at the Olympics, capping an experience he remembers overall as a painful “whirlwind”.
“I lived those Olympic two weeks both times and I don’t remember much,” Chan told Reuters in an interview of his previous Games experiences. “I don’t think I remember much because I was so living in fear every single moment.
“After the competition I had to live with the disappointment of not winning gold, but before I remember clearly over-analysing every situation.
“The minute you step into the (Olympic) village you start analysing and (your) brain is on overdrive.
“Is eating this or touching this going to affect my program? To that point, to the -Nth degree. That ruined, absolutely ruined, the experience for me.”
Despite taking an additional silver in Sochi for the team competition, Chan subsequently sat out the next season before a comeback in 2015-2016.
A three-time world champion, Chan is known for his artistry in an era of ever-increasing quad jumps, a trend he has regarded with caution amid concerns about skater safety.
In the 2017 world championships in Helsinki, Chan landed three quadruple jumps in his free program for the first time, but still only finished fourth, with each of the podium finishers, Japanese duo Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno, and China’s Jin Boyang, landing four.
“When you see them doing all these jumps, it is amazing. It’s motivating, you want to try it,” Chan said.
“But I have to constantly remind myself that my plan is completely different. I’m at a different point, my approach to competition and my prep is completely different.”
Still, at October’s Skate Canada Chan finished a disappointing fourth after scaling back the difficulty of his routine and even then falling on his opening quadruple toeloop.
He then skipped the next Grand Prix event to focus on training.
“Clearly I’m not going to do ... five quads in the amount of time I have left going into the Olympics, it is not possible,” said Chan, acknowledging that age is another factor making it hard to keep up.
Using his last two Olympics as a base, Chan is aiming for different goals this time.
“I don’t want to end my third Games being like, ‘why did I feel fear again?’ That is what I am working so hard on,” he said.
“My goal right now is not gold, it’s not a medal. It is after they announce my name, taking my position and before I hear my music to be like ‘Okay, I’m ready. I want to be here.’
“Because I have never said that to myself when I start my program at a competition. I have never said ‘I want to be here.’ It’s always like ‘I can’t wait for this to be over’ or ‘Okay, here we go,’” he added.
“If I can master that on the biggest stage, take my position in front of thousands of people watching and have the confidence to say ‘right, let’s do this.’
“Imagine how I can take that into my life after skating.”
Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Greg Stutchbury