TRURO – For more than 80 figure skaters from the Maritimes, it’s not every day they get to skate with an Olympic champion.
But that’s exactly what happened when the Truro Skate with a Champion saw Patrick Chan join skaters at the Colchester Legion Stadium on April 21.
“The energy is just unbelievable,” said the 27-year-old skater who recently announced his retirement from competitive skating. “The kids…the resilience is amazing to see. I’ve seen some pretty nasty falls already and all I see is a smile, they brush off their legs, and they keep on going. That’s really all I ask to anyone who wants to work with me or take a seminar with me.”
This is the third year for the Truro Skate with a Champion program. Sarah Morris, with the Truro Figure Skating Club, said it started to benefit those in this area.
“There are certain training centres in Canada where Canadian champions live and train, and run seminars,” she said, while Chan worked with a group on the ice. “There was an uneven experience for developing figure skaters across Canada. We wanted to create an event where we could bring in world-class Canadian champion skaters for the benefit of people in Atlantic Canada.”
In total, 86 skaters from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and P.E.I. participated in this year’s event. The first year saw Liz Manley on the ice, with Nam Nguyen the second year.
“The name that everybody wants is Patrick Chan, and has been for a long time,” said Morris, laughing. “When he was in the middle of his career, there was no chance we were going to get him. We decided this year we would ask – what’s the worst that can happen. We hadn’t heard rumours yet about his retirement – it wasn’t tied to that at all. It was really about the fact he comes here for Stars on Ice, we know they have a week of rehearsals in Halifax before. It took us a while to get him booked but he is the most gracious, he’s just lovely.”
Chan was just 15 years old when he made his international debut in 2006. The following year, he was a world junior silver medalist, and he’s added to his medal count since. He’s won 10 Canadian titles, three world championships, two silver medals at the 2014 Olympics, and gold in the team event in this year’s Olympics.
Chan said making the decision to retire would have been more difficult if it were just following the 2014 Olympics, but this year it felt right. He didn’t want to make it public, laughing that he just wanted to not show up to competitions.
“But making it public, it made all the doubts go away to see all the outpouring of support and love, and the affect I’ve had on Canadians around the world motivates me to find ways to help communities like Truro,” he said.
“I just think with anything, with any successful person and career, there comes a time when you do have to make that decision, that transition to something else. It doesn’t mean you can’t have passion for something else relating to that.”
With the end to his competitive career announced, Chan said he’s now able to reflect on his career properly and “really find what has really helped me at different times in my career, from when I was 15 to when I was 23, 24, to 27.”
He thinks it’s important for smaller clubs, where skating is a large part of the community, to have some insight on the truth behind being a top-level athlete.
“Not everything looks like how it is on TV or when you’re miles away from that role model,” he said. “It’s important to bring a bit of realism to skating – I’m just doing my part in that.”
For local skaters Lorelei Morris and Matthew Merryweather, skating with Chan was one of their highlights from the program.
“I watched him at the Olympics, so it was very exciting,” said Matthew, 10.
“Yeah, it was pretty exciting,” added 11-year-old Lorelei.
Both skaters said the biggest thing they learned from Chan happened to be the little things.
“The little things that go into a jump to make it right,” said Matthew, adding it was whether they were working on double sow, loop, or toe jumps.
“When you’re doing a double toe jump, it’s taking that toe behind you instead of to the side,” said Lorelei.
Along with their on-ice work with Chan, the skaters also participated in other sessions.
“We had a mental fitness session upstairs, where it was about getting all your negative energy out of you and to stay positive at competition,” said Lorelei.
“And we learned some very effective cool downs and warm-ups so we don’t strain or injure muscles,” said Matthew.
So what’s next for Chan? He’s settling down in Vancouver with his girlfriend, with the hopes of working with the city to create a small school with his choreographer girlfriend, and also dabbling in commercial real estate.