As quad fever sweeps skating, Patrick Chan steps up his preparations

Last year, during his comeback season, three-time world figure skating champion Patrick Chan set out to get his feet back under him after doing only shows for a season. But this year, after having witnessed an unprecedented push for quads in the men’s event, Chan is stepping it up. He must, to remain competitive.  

At the Skate Canada International in Mississauga next week, Chan intends to add a quadruple Salchow jump to his long program repertoire. It means he will still only do two quads in the long program. His new training mate, Nathan Chen of the United States, attempted five quads – the most by any male figure skater ever - in his long program at the Finlandia Trophy two weeks ago.

Winner Nathan Chen of the U.S. performs during the men's free skating at the Finlandia Trophy competition in Espoo, Finland, October 9, 2016. Lehtikuva/Martti Kainulainen/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. FINLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN FINLAND.

Chen, who is only 17 years old, landed only one of them cleanly, but he defeated Chan, who did two quads, both of them quadruple toe loops.

Chen’s quad list was staggering. He included the very difficult quad Lutz – triple toe loop combination and a quad flip, also rare.

Last season, Javier Fernandez of Spain won the world title over Olympic champ Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. The stylish Spaniard did two quads in the short program and three in the long and he doesn’t plan to add any more this season. Chan does only one quad in the short program. Chinese skater Jin Boyang attempted four quads for the first time in the free program at the world championship and won the bronze medal. Although Chan finished fifth at that event, he had the second highest artistic mark – which remains his most potent weapon.

“I felt like I was trying to catch up, especially technically,” Chan said of last season. Last summer, he started working on the quad Salchow “just for fun,” but now he’s serious. He’s also changed the pattern going into his quad toe loop and he feels it will help a lot. He feels that his nemesis jump, the triple Axel, is more solid than ever. Chan now trains with a former Russian ice dancer, Marina Zoueva.

Although Chan was the first to press quad jumps after the 2010 Olympics – won by American Evan Lysacek, who did no quads – he said he feels “a bit of a shock” to see where the men’s sport has gone during his one-year sabbatical. U.S. champion Adam Rippon said recently that he’s adding another quad to his long program (for a total of two). “If you look around and see what the others are doing, you poop your pants,” said Rippon,  who finished fourth in the free skate at the world championships last March with only one quad.

All in all, Chan feels more prepared this season heading into Skate Canada than he ever has. “I started the summer feeling a lot of my jumps were under me,” he said. “I’ve had a full season to get them back up to speed. I have a little more confidence, a little less guessing, result-wise, how things are going to turn out.”

He said moving to Canton has given him more motivation for training. At the Detroit Skating Club where he worked for several years, he eventually ended up as the only male skater, training on his own.

“I also wanted more eyes to look at me when I’m skating,” he said. “I know that sounds weird. I know last season, I had trouble when I would get on the ice, I would get kind of spooked because I was so used to training by myself. I wasn’t used to having lots of eyes watching me perform. I wanted a little more pressure and just expectation from people as they were watching."

Last year, at Skate Canada International, Chan defeated Hanyu, who had a bad day. He’ll meet up with Hanyu again next week in Mississauga.