With the finish line in sight, Chan finds inspiration in change of scenery

VANCOUVER — Patrick Chan has found inspiration in the natural beauty of Canada’s west coast.

The three-time world figure skating champion had a rough start to his final season, finishing off the podium at Skate Canada International in October for the first time in eight years.

The finish line of his illustrious career was in sight, but Chan was labouring. So he opted for a change of scenery, leaving coach Marina Zoueva and Canton, Mich., in November to move to Vancouver.

“I felt like my environment was taking a toll on kind of my mental well-being, and I wanted to be in a place that I thought was once again inspiring,” Chan said.

“One of the biggest things that pulled me towards the west was first of all just being back in Canada and not feeling like such a stranger as I go about my life everyday. And also there’s a lot of things in B.C. that really attracted me. You guys all know I’ve always been a very outdoorsy person, and very much connected to the outdoors and there’s no better place than British Columbia.”

Ravi Walia, who coaches Kaetlyn Osmond in Edmonton, will coach Chan at this week’s Canadian championships, where Chan is gunning for a record 10th national title. Walia and Oleg Epstein will coach Chan in Pyeongchang.

A coaching change so close to an Olympics tends to raise eyebrows. Much was made of Chan’s coaching change a month before the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, when he left Don Laws to work with Christy Krall.

But Chan, who turned 27 on New Year’s Eve, said there’s no comparison.

“Now I’m driving the bus a lot more,” he said.

And why spend the last couple of months of his competitive career miserable?

“Especially at this part of my career, this is where things get really tough … you start looking at your life after the life you’ve always known, which has been skating for me, and all of those things start going into a whirlwind and becomes a bit of a challenge when you don’t feel like you’re at home, when you go home after a day of training, and you just feel like there’s not much else motivating you outside of the arena.

“It started to take a toll. And now just every day I feel motivated and I feel a drive and a push to keep striving, whether it’s a good day or a bad day, I can always see the light at the end of the tunnel lately. I was missing that in Michigan.”

Chan trains at rinks in Burnaby and Coquitlam, and his coaching is a team effort between Walia, former pairs skater Elizabeth Putnam, plus Skate Canada physiologist Kelly Quipp, among others.

Chan hasn’t competed since Skate Canada International, where he finished fourth, withdrawing from his second Grand Prix competition in Japan. Instead, he took a couple of weeks off, travelling to picturesque Tofino, on Vancouver Island to clear his head.

The Toronto skater isn’t worried about making up for the missed competitions.

“I can’t count on both hands how many Grand Prixs I’ve done and how many world championships I’ve been to, so I think I’ve really earned the experience to know that when I step on the ice at nationals and when I step on the ice at the Olympics that I feel completely aware of my environment and what to expect.

“That’s the least of my worries … I feel confident I’ll be good to go.”

Men’s singles will be one of the most hotly contested events at the national championships since Canada has just two spots in that discipline at the Pyeongchang Olympics. Chan is all but guaranteed to lock up one spot. Kevin Reynolds, Nam Nguyen, Keegan Messing and Nicolas Nadeau will be among those battling for the second berth.

The senior events at the Canadian championships begin Friday at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. Canada’s Olympic team will be named Sunday.

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