Chan becomes Canada's youngest men's figure skating champ

Terry Bell, Canwest News Service  Published: Saturday, January 19, 2008

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VANCOUVER - "Holy schmoly."

Those were Patrick Chan's words Saturday after becoming the youngest Canadian men's figure skating champion ever.

Chan, a 17-year-old form Toronto, laid down a stunning free skate on an equally stunning day for Canadian skating and dethroned Jeff Buttle at the BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Vancouver.

"Really? Well holy schmoly," Chan said when someone informed him that he'd just become Canada's youngest men's champ. Chan is 10 months younger than Don McPherson was when he won way back in 1963.

"This whole season has been like a dream," said Chan, who won a senior Grand Prix event in Paris in November.

"I'm still in a trance right now. I guess that's the beginning of the feeling of a national champion."

Chan said neither his morning warmup nor his six-minute warmup went well. But when crunch time came, the kid stood and delivered like a seasoned vet.

Chan scored 159.26 points in the free skate for a total of 232.68, just ahead of Buttle. Buttle earned 149.05 for his free skate for a 229.85 total. The three-time defending champ from Smooth Rock Falls, Ont., had what looked like a commanding lead (80.80 to 73.42) after Friday's short program.

Shawn Sawyer of Edmundston, N.B, wound up third with 197.48 points.

As Chan finished his program - a clean skate that included the maximum eight triples - a broad smile came to his face and the crowd rose to its feet. The audience knew what it had just witnessed. But with Buttle yet to skate, Chan still wasn't so sure he'd won.

"I've seen Jeff skate so well under pressure," said Chan. "I still didn't expect it, but the feeling of the crowd rising after my footwork into the two spins was just phenomenal. I just wish everyone could experience it. It's just awesome.

"We both went and tried to skate our best," Chan said of himself and Buttle. "He didn't perform the best. I performed the best, but maybe at (the world championships) he'll do better than me. We're both good buddies. We talk all the time. We're not like Evan or Johnnie," he said, referring to American rivals Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir.

"Thank goodness. I'm, like, a peace guy. I'm just glad we get to go to worlds together."

The two men will represent Canada at world championships in March in Sweden. If they do well, they'll win Canada three spots to 2009 world championships in Los Angeles.

"I want to bring three spots to worlds for Canada next year," said Chan. "That's my goal, actually. Two spots is hard because there are so many good Canadian guys. We need a lot of room for them. We need the extra seats on the plane."

Buttle, who fell on an opening triple Axel, showed plenty here this weekend. He just got beat on what was a remarkable day of Canadian skating.

"I was happy with the skate," the 25-year-old said. "It wasn't perfect, but mistakes like the doubled triple Lutz and the second (double) Axel I was just a bit too forward. I'd rather lose my title this way than to lose it having a bad skate and not ever knowing.

"I didn't watch it (Chan's skate), but the marks speak for themselves. He had an amazing skate. He's a great skater. He won fair and square and I'm still proud of myself. I've won the title skating worse than that."

Days like Saturday are the kind that Skate Canada officials have been dreaming of since Brian Orser, Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko stopped ruling the roost.

Barely an hour before Chan started what might be a new skating dynasty, 17-year-old Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., was busy making Canadian history.

Reynolds wound up in sixth place after a 112.48 free skate left him with 182.58 points. But those numbers were buried amid the buzz of a stunning quad Salchow, triple toe, triple loop combination he executed.

He's the first Canadian man to do a quad-triple-triple and only the second man, anywhere, to do one. Russia's Evgeni Plushenko did one at 2003 world championships.

And although he stumbled on the landing of a quad Salchow, the mop-topped redhead got credit for two quads in the same program.

"I thought I might as well put it in because it had been going well all week," Reynolds said of the quad-triple-triple.

"I was hoping for a little better performance but overall I didn't do too badly."

Vancouver Province

tbell@png.canwest.com

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