Three-time World Champion and 2014 Olympic silver medalist Patrick Chan (CAN) started his 2016/17 season at the Challenger Series event Finlandia Trophy October 6 to 9, 2016.
Q=interviewer (Tatjana Flade for ISU), P= Patrick Chan
Q: How do feel about coming to Finlandia Trophy?
P: This is my first time doing a senior B which is interesting and also exciting, because I can really feel like I’m at an actual Grand Prix. Usually the first one is Skate Canada and I usually don’t put a lot of pressure on it, whereas now I can do the same thing here and I’ll be a little bit more prepared for Skate Canada. It forces me to get trained and get into shape sooner in the summer as opposed to waiting until late October. It’s been good, it’s been fun.
Q: Why did you decide to do a Challenger Series event for the first time?
P: I thought about it last year, but usually I do Japan Open around this time. This year, with (former coach) Kathy (Johnson) before everything that happened we decided that we would do Finlandia. Especially this year, because Worlds are in Helsinki. So it is good to practice the travel and knowing how I’m going to connect in Amsterdam and how the timing and everything works and dealing with the jetlag and all that. It’s a good practice for the body and for me mentally, knowing what to expect when it comes to travelling. I think it’s so far very helpful.
Q: You are now coached by Marina Zueva and her team. How did you pick them as your new coaches?
P: Early on in the summer my previous coach Kathy Johnson and I already moved to Canton to skate in a rink with more competitive skaters, international level ice dance teams, just to have a little more energy. Things got very stale and boring at my old rink. So I was already in Canton. Marina and Kathy have a very good relationship, even now, they still do. Everything that happened with Kathy was of course very challenging at the beginning and there was a little bit of fighting, but it was to be expected after working with a coach for four years. I was very close to Kathy. That is something that down the road we’ll revisit and will be okay and we’ll have a better friendship. After the split with Kathy I trained for myself for two weeks. I spoke to Mike Slipchuk (high performance director) at Skate Canada and they all recommended that I skate on my own, because I never had a chance to just have a session to train by myself. I was always on a lesson with Kathy, every day. That gave me time to really experiment and teach almost myself and just have time to relax and not feel someone watching me all the time. During that time, near the end of those two weeks, Oleg Epstein, who coaches at the rink with Marina as well, started giving me little lessons, little tips helping with the triple Axel and the quad Sal. I felt very comfortable and happy to be working with Oleg. We have a good communication and that made the choice honestly very easy. I didn’t want to move, I didn’t want to go to another rink, I was already there. And Marina is Marina. She is very smart, (has a) very good vision and knows what I need. I trust her decisions when it comes to skating and even what I should be doing off the ice, preparation for on ice. It’s been very smooth, a very smooth transition. It’s not just Marina, she has a team of coaches as well, it’s also Oleg (Epstein) and Johnny (Johns), who are there to help me to be my best at competition. I like the team atmosphere. There are really great skaters that make me feel happy when I’m training and feel happy when I go to competition.
Q: How surprising was it when your previous coach resigned?
P: I’m not extremely surprised, it was more of a shock, because I was like, ‘oh my God, it is actually happening’. I’m glad it happened now, not later on. It takes a lot on both our parts to realize, okay, it’s best to go separate ways. It’s always easy to go back to how things were, because that’s easy. It’s always hard to change, because it is uncomfortable, it is challenging. So it was definitely hard and it still is, for me and Kathy. Easier for me, because I have to move on, I have to start preparing for events and training. Now with Marina and also Nathan (Chen) being at the rink it was easy for me to transition and move on to just training.
Q: How is it to train with ice dancers?
P: It’s different. A lot of single skaters wonder how I do it. At first it was hard to get used to it. It took about a week. They’re all my friends and they know my patterns now. Once you learn each other’s way of training, then it becomes very smooth and enjoyable.
Q: What can you learn from them?
P: Quality of skating, even though it is my strength it always can be improved. There are always areas, not only technically, that I need help in. Oleg, Marina and Johnny are really helpful when it comes to the skating and the jumps and putting it together, just improving everything. I’m very happy on practices, just travelling and everything that skating is about. Being a competitor in skating is a lot more enjoyable for me now. I don’t know why. I leave my home, feeling motivated and excited to compete, which is a feeling I hadn’t had in a long time, because I’ve been competing for so many years.
Q: Nathan Chen has joined you in Canton. How is it to train with him?
P: I think it has brought a lot of fun and goofiness, but also a lot of hard work. It’s a good balance with Marina and with our personalities. We have fun and Marina keeps us on the right path, making sure that we get our work done. It’s very good energy.
Q: Nathan went for five quads in his free skating. How crazy is that?
P: I think it’s just proof of a new generation. Just like when I became successful internationally at the senior level it was a different time from when Kurt Browning skated and Elvis Stojko skated. I think it’s the next generation coming in. It’s exciting and I’m so fortunate to train with somebody who does it every day, so it’s not news to me. I see it every day and it’s motivating and it’s also helpful to see it visually. I’m not saying I’m going to do quad Lutz or quad flip anytime soon, but just the (quad) toes and Sals, it’s good to have someone who understands the technique and the motion of it. We can sometimes help each other actually, so it’s become a huge advantage. At the beginning it was a bit of frustration to see a lot of these younger skaters that are able to do it very easily when it is challenging for me. But it’s how you look at it and I see it as an advantage now to just help me get better.
Q: You said that one of your biggest mistakes last year was to pay too much attention to what other skaters are doing.
P: Last year was a bit crazy, coming back and seeing all these boys doing four quads, three quads. At first I was like, ‘oh my God, this is impossible, what am I going to do, I can’t compete against this’. It’s gotten so ridiculous now that I’m just like, ‘okay, you know what, this is how it’s going to be’. That gives me a reason to not pay attention to what other skaters are doing. Of course I already know what they’re doing, so I don’t need to pay attention even more. I even train with someone who does quad flip, quad Lutz, quad Sal, quad toe. I don’t need to pay attention to it at competitions. I realized there is no point on putting more pressure on me by paying attention to what quads other people are doing. It’s more important for me to do what I’m doing every day in training and going back to that plan and sticking to that plan, because I’m not going to go out at my first time in competition and do quad flip, I’m never going to do that. That’s not very smart, it’s not very Marina-like. She knows what are my strengths and what I need to do to challenge myself just enough to compete against the rest of the men who are doing three or four quads. I’m working on quad Sal. It’s been really great, Oleg has given me really great technical help with the quad Sal and I’ve been landing it in practice maybe three out of five. I would want it to be four to five out of five, before I put it in the program. So that’s something I think I look more at Skate Canada to do, which again why it is so advantageous to do an event early on, because I’ll have a little more confidence going into Skate Canada to do it there. I pushed the second quad back to the second half and that has been a challenge in itself. That is also something to compete against the men that are doing four quads, that to me is like a third or fourth quad, that’s the equivalent to me. That is just how I am, that’s my body, that’s me. I can do only do what I can do best, right. And that’s my biggest challenge, that’s my goal for the year, to do the second quad (toe) and do the quad Sal in the beginning, both, at Worlds. That would be a huge achievement for me. That would hopefully equal to a podium finish. The rest, the results I can’t control. I can only control what I can plan in the program.
Q: Your free skating music “A Journey” is something really special.
P: The long program is composed by Eric Radford. A lot of people don’t know that he plays piano. He has achieved the highest level of certification in Canada, the World Conservatory of Music, he’s a master pianist. We were at a reception and there was a piano in the lobby and he started playing. I said, ‘this music is amazing, who is it and what is it’ and he said ‘I wrote what I’m playing’. The minute I heard it I could picture myself skating to it. That’s how it started. It’s still a work in progress. After he finished his short program, Eric is talking about my program. He is such a caring person. He said, ‘I was listening to your long program the other day and I noticed there is a section I can give it a little more depth and little more base’. I was like ‘that’s perfect. I’m glad you hear that and I agree. Now that you mention it I can hear it’. So it’s going to be changing. I think the music will change as the year goes on, which is exciting. That’s the advantage of having a friend who is the composer. He can constantly evolve the music. It’s amazing, because no one else is doing that and I do it, because I want to and it gives me joy and excitement. I think Eric deserves that kind of recognition, beyond his skating he deserves recognition for how genius he is when it comes to composing. There are not many people in the world who can compose music and also be a high level athlete. That is two very different industries, and he is able to do both. He knows the rhythm of skating and you can hear it in the music. When David (Wilson) and I choreographed the program it really was choreographing itself, on section after the other. Maybe he (Eric) didn’t do it on purpose, consciously, but maybe subconsciously, because he is a skater. He actually has been a single skater. So maybe subconsciously, the piece just came out naturally for a skater.
Q: Your Short Program “Dear Prudence” and “Black Bird” by The Beatles originally was a show program.
P: It’s evolved and bloomed into a program that I really enjoy. I really liked it as an exhibition. I wasn’t sure how it would be as a competition program, but Pasquale (Camerlengo) did a great job. It really works well, I feel comfortable, the pattern into jumps are set really well. It’s more about me, having the right mindset as I’m doing the jump, being a little more aware throughout the jump.
Q: How does Finlandia Trophy set you up for your next event, Skate Canada?
P: Marina did a very good job getting us prepared for this event. I don’t think I’ve been this ready for an event going into Skate Canada in the past. I feel really good, got a lot confidence from this event, learned a lot about the program and of course interaction with a new coach and all that stuff that the audience doesn’t know about. I’m learning and I’m very happy with the result, of course it can be better and that will come with time. I have two and a half weeks when I get back till Skate Canada. This is a great way to kick start. Instead of being scared of the first Grand Prix, the first event, I’m actually excited after this event, just having a little more confidence. Probably we’re going to start even more run-throughs and simulations. We’ve been doing that coming to this event and I think we’ll keep doing it. We imitate competitions, we go one by one. So it puts a little bit more pressure on each run-through. It helped a lot here and I think it’s going to help again, even more at Skate Canada.
Q: Thank you very much for the interview and good luck for the season.