Javier Fernandez has defeated Patrick Chan before. (Getty Images)When Patrick Chan takes to the ice in London, Ont., on Wednesday he’ll set out to become the first male skater since Russian Alex Yagudin to win three-straight World Figure Skating titles.
Yagudin accomplished the feat between 1998-2000 and only a few years before him Canadian Kurt Browning did the same. Browning and Elvis Stojko still stand as the only two Canadians to ever win at least three world championships.
But while the 22-year-old Chan is a back-to-back winner and the defending champion, he’s not necessarily the standalone favourite heading into this week’s event.
It’s been an off year for Chan as he finished third at the 2013 Grand Prix final – the Olympic test event – and second at Skate Canada International, both events that he won in 2011 and 2012.
With the Sochi Games less than a year away this week’s event in London is a chance for skaters to compete against the best in the world and for Chan specifically, it’s an opportunity to put his previous lackluster performances behind him, gain back his confidence and build some momentum heading into the Olympics.
Javier Fernandez, however is one of the few skaters, along with 2010 world champion Daisuke Takahashi and 18-year-old Yuzuru Hanyu, who could dethrone Chan.
It was the 21-year-old Spaniard who defeated Chan at the Skate Canada International event last October. And defeating the two-time world champion arguably wasn’t even Fernandez’s biggest accomplishment this season as he was victorious at the 2013 European figure skating championships in January, becoming the first Spanish-born men’s skater to ever win the event.
Fernandez has an interesting back-story as well. As Pritha Sarkar wrote in a story for Reuters, growing up he was bullied by his schoolmates who couldn’t get past the gender stereotypes associated with the sport.
He told Sarkar in a telephone interview earlier this week:
"In Spain they don't see skating as a boy's sport. So sometimes it was hard to admit that I wanted to be a skater. When I was in school and said I'm a figure skater, in Spain they see figure skating like ballet, like something for girls.
"So they are always going to judge you in a bad way and say bad things about you. It's hard when people in your country think ice skating is a girl's sport. I was teased about being a skater but I didn't really care a lot."
This week is a chance for Fernandez to prove that he’s not only the capable of competing with and beating the best skaters in Europe, but doing so against the best skaters in the world even if it means spoiling Patrick Chan’s chance at history along the way.