LOS ANGELES — A chorus of boos erupted from the pro-Canadian crowd at the Staples Center when Patrick Chan’s score was announced. Chan simply raised his shoulders in a puzzled shrug, and gave a half-hearted smile.
The 18-year-old from Toronto finds himself chasing the leaders — Brian Joubert of France and Evan Lysacek of the U.S. — at the world figure skating championships after finishing third in the short program Wednesday, prompting the inevitable questions about the fairness of the judging system.
Chan scored 82.55 points for his moving performance to Tango de los Exilados, some six points lower than he scored the first day en route to winning last month’s ISU Four Continents in Vancouver. Joubert scored 84.40 with a more whimsical skate to “Rise” by Safri Duo, while Lysacek scored 82.70 for his dramatic skate to Bolero.
But the big shock of the night was that Joubert, a big jumper who’s certainly not known for his artistic side, beat Chan on component scores — what used to be known as the artistic marks and where Chan, with his superior skating skills, has been blowing away the field this season.
“I’m really disappointed about that,” Chan said. “I think a lot of people are going to be talking about that, because I think — I’m not going to say anything — but it’s pretty obvious the big difference between me and Evan against Joubert, it’s a big difference in the programs. It’s really frustrating.”
Canada’s pairs skating for next year’s Olympics took a blow later Wednesday. Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison, the bronze medallists at last year’s world championships, finished a disappointing seventh, while Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin were eighth — their combined totals too low to give Canada three berths in pairs in 2010 in Vancouver. Canadians Mylene Brodeur and John Mattatall were 10th.
Still, Chan’s score in the short program was the biggest surprise of the night. Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada’s high performance director, said he was shocked by the skater’s low component scores.
Chan’s coach Don Laws could barely bite his tongue.
“I would have to talk to a judge and have them explain those to me,” Laws said. “The skating skills and everything was the same as ever, and for it to fluctuate. . . If you’re of a certain standard and you reach that zenith, if you skate well each time, that shouldn’t be a variable.”
Vaughn Chipeur of Calgary, meanwhile, scored 70.45 to leave him 12th, while Jeremy Ten of Vancouver was 21st with a score of 60.90.
It’s just the second time this season Chan hasn’t led going into the long program — the other was the Grand Prix Final — but the young Canadian who’s competing in just his second world championship insists it’s not a position he minds all that much.
“It’s a good spot. I love this spot, third is great,” Chan said. “I’d rather be third at worlds than first at worlds, I think I can sleep better at night knowing I’m chasing and not being chased.”
There was a suggestion that the judges are hesitant to hand the world title to Chan so early in his career, and perhaps a skater’s resume still plays a part in the final tally.
“The new system just took away some of that judgemental stuff, but it’s still a bit of reputation and what you’ve done during the season,” Chan said. “I think it’s just having them see me more. The judges panel, I looked over and a lot of them I haven’t seen before. A lot of them haven’t really seen my skating in person until now.”
Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy were the class of the field in the pairs, winning the gold with a total score of 203.48. China’s Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao took the silver with 186.52, while Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia won the bronze with 186.39. Dube, from Drummondville, Que., and Davison from Cambridge, Ont., scored 111.02 for their free skate performance to Carmen.