Patrick Chan finishes fifth at world figure skating championships, despite clear path to gold
BOSTON, Ma. - The men’s event at the world figure skating championships on Friday is a tale of two athletes who handled adversity in different ways.
There was Javier Fernandez of Spain, who hadn’t practiced in two days because of a bursa that had developed on his right heel about a month ago.
And there was Patrick Chan, who had some powerful tools at his disposal although perhaps not as many quads as the others. But when Chan stepped onto the ice at the TD Garden, he found it not to his liking.
Fernandez won the event with such astonishing force, he made the rest look like bumper cars in a NASCAR race. He defeated Chan by 48.18 points.
Chan, third after the short, finished only eighth in the free program, and fifth overall. He hung his head in the aptly named kiss and cry.
Yuzuru Hanyu, of Japan, who came into the free program, Friday with a huge 12-point cushion, just simply feel apart, as he’s been known to do in long routines. He choked back the reality when he saw marks that were 35 points below his world record.
In a way, it was a replay of the Sochi Olympics, when Hanyu skated poorly, leaving the door wide open for Chan to walk through and win the gold. And Chan did not walk through it, finishing second to him that day in Russia.
On Friday in Boston, Hanyu left the door wide open again. History repeated itself on Friday. Instead, Fernandez became the man to defeat, not the much heralded Japanese skater.
“I feel really stupid for talking about it,” said Chan afterwards. “But the ice was just not to my favourite specifications.”
He had a point. Because Chan skated last, the ice had not been resurfaced through two groups of six skaters, all skating long programs plus six-minute warmups. All that bladework from all those people created many ruts.
The ice looked frosty, Chan said. It had a dull coat. It did not shine. How could he use that easy slip of his across the surface? Worst of all were those ruts. “I couldn’t be confident when I stepped forward to get my edge that my edge would go straight,” he said. The blade would skip and jump over bumps.
He said he needs to use the flex in the ice and in a perfect world, “it almost rebounds me and gives me speed into my jumps,” he said.
On the other hand, there was Fernandez, who was starting to panic the morning of the long program during a practice where he could not really practice, fussing with a boot, trying to keep it from rubbing against his bursa, a big old red bump that is very painful. Skaters all had ugly feet.
But nothing was working. Coach Brian Orser could see Fernandez’s face go rather white.
So Orser managed the situation. He sought medical help. They spent a couple of hours at the rink seeing to Fernandez’s heel and it served to distract him. He got lots of attention. “He likes that,” Orser said.
And the coach threw a more positive light on Fernandez’s situation by telling him that his best long-program practices came on Mondays, after he had taken a two-day weekend off. “There is always a silver lining,” said the coach.
“I would never do this again,” said Orser. But it worked on world championship final day.
Fernandez had never done an absolutely clean long program, from start-to-finish before.
Everything wrong went right with Fernandez. Everything right went wrong with Chan.
“Yeah, it stinks to be fifth,” Chan said.
He’s in the first year of a comeback. He feels like it’s the first year he ever competed at a world championship. But he’s going to have to make his own luck.
More coverage from Yahoo! Sports: