He moved here more than a year ago, looking for new momentum in his promising but unfulfilled figure skating career. He thought the training atmosphere in Colorado Springs, the coaching as well as the altitude and being around other skaters, would help him come closer to realizing his immense potential.
Last weekend in Moscow, the ultimate reward finally came for Patrick Chan.
Not only did he dominate the field in winning the men's title at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships, the 20-year-old Chan also rewrote every world record along the way. His short program earned 93.02 points, beating the mark of former Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko. Chan's long program, including two quad jumps, totaled 187.96 points, far ahead of his nearest rivals. And his total of 280.98 points obliterated the former record of 264.41 by Japan's Daisuke Takahashi.
In the process, Chan clearly established himself as today's odds-on favorite for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. And perhaps now, after a year of becoming more and more enamored with his adopted home, Chan can achieve the celebrity status he deserves here in Colorado Springs.
He's the first Springs-based athlete to win a world skating title since Jill Trenary took the 1990 women's championship. He's also the first skater, period, to come from training at Colorado Springs World Arena to a world gold medal. (Trenary trained at the old Broadmoor World Arena.)
And no, Chan isn't just a stop-in visitor. His main coach since prior to the Vancouver Olympics (where he placed fifth) is Springs native Christy Krall, a former Olympian herself (as a teen in 1964) who has coached hundreds of skaters in the years since. Also helping Chan, and the coach given most credit for helping him perfect his quad jumps to use for the first time this season, is Eddie Shipstad, who has spent most of his life connected to the Springs skating scene.
Need more? No problem. Chan confirmed to media covering the Worlds in Moscow that he's planning to attend Colorado College starting in the fall. (It's not a coincidence that Krall graduated from CC.) That might sound like a potential problem for a fully committed international skater, but CC's block schedule is conducive to athletes trying to work around their competitive schedules.
But the real difference-maker is Krall, whose unflappable, always-positive personality obviously has provided a stabilizing influence on Chan. While covering the Olympics last year in Vancouver, I noticed how Krall knew exactly how hard to push and how much to expect. Chan was coming off being second at the 2009 Worlds, but he also had been injured, and that combined with training disruptions and changing coaches prevented him from breaking through in Vancouver.
After Chan's stunning victory last week, Krall talked to the media about what he had gone through.
"He had to have a year to experience that, unless you're very prepared and you've done this over and over, things don't just fall into your lap," Krall said.
Moments after finishing his Olympic free program, Chan made it clear he was looking forward to coming back to Colorado Springs for a full, focused year. Now that year has taken Chan to the pinnacle. And even though he represents Canada, and not the United States or the Broadmoor Skating Club, this city and its skating fans should fully appreciate him.
Let's put it this way: As of now, Patrick Chan has established himself as this city's hottest current full-time resident athlete. Yes, we have others who have earned a special place, such as short-track speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno and Olympic champion bobsledders Steve Holcomb and Curt Tomasevicz. Also, of course, there is skater Rachael Flatt, though recurring injuries doomed her to 12th at Moscow in her last competition before going to Stanford University and training in the Bay Area.
That puts Chan by himself among year-round resident athletes now. And who knows, as long as he'll be a student at Colorado College, perhaps he might practice some of his programs before big World Arena crowds between periods at a few CC hockey games this coming season.
Perhaps then, Colorado Springs can grow to appreciate Chan that much more.
He'll be worth watching, all the way to 2014 in Sochi.
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