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Reigning world men's and pairs champions join returning favourites for Stars On Ice

By ANDREA NEMETZ Local Xpress Patrick Chan wants to be a 10-time Canadian champion. Even more than Olympic glory, Chan craves a record-setting 10th men’s national figure skating title.
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Olympic medallists Joannie Rochette and Patrick Chan practise a routine at the Scotiabank Centre on Wednesday morning. Rochette and Chan are among the cast of World and Olympic medallists in Halifax for Stars on Ice on Friday at 7:30 p.m.. (RYAN TAPLIN / Local Xpress)

By ANDREA NEMETZ Local Xpress

Patrick Chan wants to be a 10-time Canadian champion.

Even more than Olympic glory, Chan craves a record-setting 10th men’s national figure skating title.

A three-time world gold medallist, he returned to competitive skating this season after an 18-month break and claimed his eighth Canadian title in January in Halifax.

“That was the highlight of my year,” the 25-year-old skater says with a broad grin as he sits at ice level at Scotiabank Centre watching the Stars On Ice cast rehearse on Wednesday.

“I was waiting the whole year to get to nationals just because it’s a comfort zone for me. It’s the closest event to bridging being a show skater to a competitive skater. In my approach to nationals I’m less high strung, I put less pressure on myself.

“Nationals was a great confidence booster and I was so glad to regain my title and to go for 10. That’s my ultimate goal, beyond even an Olympic medal, reaching 10 national titles. I want to come back to Canada, to come home. And that would be icing on the cake for me, beyond my results internationally. I’d be setting a new Canadian record with the most titles and that would prove everything I wanted to do for Canadian skating.”

Montgomery Wilson holds nine men’s titles winning from 1929-1935 and 1938-39. Eight titles ties Chan with Brian Orser, who topped the men’s skaters from 1981-1988, for second.

The 2014 Olympic silver medallist, Chan joins a cast of world and Olympic medallists for Stars on Ice, which kicks off a 12-city nationwide tour on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Scotiabank Centre.

Two-time and reigning world champion Javier Fernandez joins the cast for the first time and three-time world champion Elvis Stojko returns after an absence of a decade.

Also returning are reigning world champion pairs skaters Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford; 2010 Olympic gold medallist ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir; 2014 world silver medallist ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje; 2010 Olympic bronze medallist Joannie Rochette; world champion Jeffrey Buttle and two-time Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond, who won a silver as part of the Canadian squad in the team event at the 2014 Olympics.

Fernandez, a native of Spain where he is the six-time national champion, has been training with Orser at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club since 2011.

The 25-year-old said he had wanted to join Stars on Ice previously so was happy when he was offered a spot this year.

“I feel close to the Canadian people because of living in Toronto. I train with many of the Canadians and my coach Brian Orser is Canadian and people treat me so well here, it’s almost like I’m home. It’s very special for me.”

Chan is happy to have his closest competitor and great friend on tour describing Fernandez as very competitive, talented and bringing a “whole different energy to the cast.”

They skate together in the “Fosse-esque” opening and the finale and both will be reprising programs from this competitive season.

Fernandez, who arrived in Halifax on Monday night and visited the Bicycle Thief with the cast deeming it “really, really good” will unveil his Danny Boy program, which he skated in the gala at the World Championships in Boston earlier this month.

“It’s slow music and I know it is a song that means a lot to a lot of people. It is not my style, but I’m trying to make it more special because it is not my style,” he explains of the program choreographed by David Wilson.

He will also skate his free program to Frank Sinatra’s Guys and Dolls that earned him a personal best and this second consecutive world title in Boston.

“It will be 30 seconds shorter than in Boston and minus the quads, but except the quads it will be the same, with the choreography and the spins.”

He’ll be moving on to new programs when he returns to Toronto to train after Stars on Ice wraps May 21 in Victoria, followed by a tour of Japan with Fantasy on Ice and a little vacation in Spain.  He’s sorry to say farewell to Guys and Dolls with which he had such success this year and for which he created a character.

“One of the best things I do is put a little character into the music,” he says.

Chan will skate his Mack the Knife short program.

“I had to water it down (during the competitive season) because of the jumps and other technical elements. My goal is to add the choreographic elements back in and be able to tell the story better. It brings more character into the program. It’s high energy and it immediately puts the smile on my face.”

He’ll also skate to Esqualo, an Argentinian tango piece choreographed by David Wilson.

“There’s no lyrics … it’s much more stern and confident and detailed with the feet. It’s more about the mood and the setting. It’s a tribute to edge control and simplicity and the confidence in every step, in every move that I do.”

Chan said group rehearsals are his favourite part of Stars on Ice, which he joined in 2013.

And skating in the boys number to Sound of Silence by American heavy metal band Disturbed with Buttle and Stojko is “a dream come true. All three of us are world champions.”

The well-known song has a touch of rawness from the metal side that suits the different styles of all three skaters, says Chan.

“Elvis is all about the subtle, yet strong. Strong edge control, low swooping moves only he’s able to do.

“Jeff and I are very much partners in this. We mirror each other we mix the lyrical with big, powerful, moving, pushing, lots of speed across the ice, it’s a great balance of yin and yang.”

Chan has skated frequently with Buttle but this is his first full tour with six-time national champion Stojko.

“I always remember watching him at the ’98 Olympics in Nagano. He was skating in his purple outfit, it was a kung fu-style program, and he had a groin injury and he really fought through that program and got a silver medal. It was inspiring.

“For him to be on the ice with us, working together and feeding off each other, it’s humbling and a highlight I don’t want to overlook.”

After Stars on Ice ends Chan will return to Detroit where he and coach Kathy Johnson will start work on two new programs. What they will look like, he can’t say, noting only that he is open to different possibilities.

But he knows he’s made the right decision to return to competition though it wasn’t an experience for the faint-hearted. Still, he says this season which ended with a fifth place finish at Worlds in Boston, had a lot of positives and exceeded his expectations result-wise.

“One of my biggest fears this year was that I’d come back and people would think ‘what is he doing here? He looks out of place. He doesn’t look like he should be competing.’ It took time to get past that and realize I have much more to offer in competitive skating than I did before. I’m re-envisioning myself, trying to skate for different reasons. I have different goals.”

Like claiming title number 10.

andrea.n@ns.sympatico.ca / @AndreaNemetz



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