Figure Skating - Lay off Chan, he is the best, says Sale

Perfection is something every skater strives for but for Patrick Chan, producing a flawless skate at a major global meet has proved to be his Achilles - or Axel - heel.

Reuters
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Patrick Chan (AFP)

He has won three world titles and is on the cusp of ending Canada's century-long wait for a men's Olympic champion.

But time and again he is reminded more about his flaws than his triumphs and 2002 Olympic pairs champion Jamie Sale said her fellow Canadian should be applauded for what he produces rather than being blamed for exploiting the scoring system.

"Patrick has a lot of wonderful top quality attributes about his skating and that is why he wins. It's not about landing a quad and skating perfect," Sale told Reuters in a telephone interview from her home in Edmonton.

"I have never seen anybody with edge quality like him. To me that is figure skating. It's amazing to do a quad but they are all doing it now.

"Patrick has amazing skating qualities... his edge work, his spins, his gracefulness and his effortlessness - that also accounts for a lot. That is why somebody wins without skating perfectly.

"When he does his footwork, I'm in awe. He's unbelievable."

Unfortunately for Chan, what most people find unbelievable is that he can pick up three world championship golds while staggering through his programmes.

At the 2011 worlds in Moscow, he stumbled out of a triple Axel during his free skate and 12 months later in Nice, his win was greeted with deafening boos and whistles after he crash- landed on his bottom following a relatively simple double Axel.

If that was bad, his shell-shocked face turned the same shade as Canada's Maple Leaf flag after he hit the ice twice during an error-riddled long programme in front of his home fans in London, Ontario, at the 2013 worlds.

It was a performance that left him banging his head in frustration and mouthing the word 'sorry' to everyone as soon as his high marks flashed up.

His win last year led to former champions attacking the result while one incensed critic started collecting signatures to petition the governing body to overturn the result,

"Even people who know skating, it's kind of weird and frustrating to see someone not skate cleanly and winning," admitted Sale, who won gold with her former husband David Pelletier after being a victim of the Salt Lake City judging scandal that led to the scoring system being revamped to its current accumulative points format.

"Someone like my mom, who's been a skating mother all her life will watch and (say) 'I don't understand that. I loved his skating but he just fell three times. How did he win?'

"It's because when he's skating, he's racking up the points with the other stuff he's doing. That's how the scoring system works."

Sale, however, admitted that for the sake of Chan's legacy, she hopes the 23-year-old has saved his best skate for the Sochi Olympics.

He has already had one failed attempt, when he botched his triple Axel - yet again - on the opening day of competition on Thursday.

But luckily for the Canadian, he will have another shot at perfection as 'Take 1' was during the team competition which is making its Olympic debut this year.

"He should have a really great skate, and know he was solid and that he really deserved to win that competition because he was fabulous," Sale said.

"You want to feel really proud about it. You don't want to go home and hear left, right and centre that you fell three times!"

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