6:52 PM EST, February 1, 2014
SOCHI, Russia – Things can still be pretty fast and loose at these Winter Games.
So Canada’s Patrick Chan, the men’s figure skating favorite, had a sheet of practice ice all to himself rather than sharing it with five others at the Olympic training rink Saturday afternoon.
And it wasn’t even his scheduled practice time.
Opportunities like that are why Chan, winner of the last three world titles after finishing a disappointed fifth at the 2010 Olympics, is among the few figure skaters in Sochi a week before the opening ceremony.
He was the first Canadian athlete to collect team gear, getting dibs on the right sizes. When it took Chan longer than he figured to get from the Olympic Village to the rink, making him late for a 2 p.m. practice, he also got dibs on the next session 50 minutes later.
“I train my best when I am familiar with my routine, and I know where everything is,” said Chan, who arrived Friday. “I hate when I am taken by surprise.”
Chan surprised himself by nailing quadruple jumps in his jet-lagged and travel-weary state. After falling on the first attempt, he looked at video taken on an iPad by Skate Canada’s high performance director, Michael Slipchuck, then reeled off several successful quads, some in combination.
“It was definitely a very good practice for the first day,” he said.
The idea of becoming properly acclimated to new circumstances also applies to how Chan handles the role of favorite.
“I have been dealing with being the top for three years,” he said. “That has really prepared me without knowing it. I have had experience at all my Grand Prix (events) and the World Championships being the favorite. I will treat it on practice and in the competition like I’m a three-time world champion, and I deserve to be the favorite.”
For all that, Chan, 23, expressed some trepidation about his first encounter with Russia’s Evgeni Evgeny Plushenko since the 2010 Olympics. Plushenko, his 31-year-old body battered with injuries, has not competed on the Grand Prix circuit or at the worlds since winning his third Olympic medal (a gold and two silver after a silver in 2002 and a gold in 2006) at Vancouver. He has an aura that can suck the air out of a building.
``I didn’t really expect him to come,” Chan said. “It was a bit of a surprise to many people he was selected.
``It’s exciting and makes me a little more nervous that he’s here. . . It’s going to be a challenge, not in the aspect that he could challenge me for a gold medal but that he may be a bit of a distraction because I don’t get to see him very much.”
Chan still has 11 days before the men’s competition begins. He also wants to skate in the new team event, which begins Thursday. Canada, co-favorites with Russia for the team gold, will announce its lineup Wednesday.
``It would be a good way to get out and get a taste of the ice,’’ he said.
Chan got an odd taste of it Saturday. He said it was the first time he had been solo in practice at an international event.
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