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Patrick Chan in thick of things at worlds


BOSTON—It was his year of living capriciously.

Unfettered by competition, un-tethered from the grind, de-stressing.

Except the world didn’t stop to wait for Patrick Chan, didn’t slow its rotation when he got ’round to deciding: Hey, time to hop back on.

Planet Figure Skate certainly kept right on turning, absent the three-time world champion, not missing him particularly.

Chan’s steep challenge now: Catch them if he can, the elite men who passed him by during that 18-month sabbatical.

On Wednesday night at TD Garden, 2016 world figure skating championships, the 25-year-old from Toronto stuck medal close, in bronze position after the short competition.

Performing to his signature, swingy Mack the Knife, Chan uncorked a gorgeous quad toe-triple toe combination to open but fell on a triple Axel that was way too close to the boards.

His score of 94.84, a season best, put him third.

Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, the Olympic champion who just keeps gob-smacking the judges, reeled off two quads — a Salchow and a quad toe-triple toe combo — in a flawless Chopin routine that earned a score of 110.56, just a shade shy of the world record he already possesses.

Defending champion Javier Fernandez of Spain went clean on one quad but fell on his second effort, in second place with a score of 98.52.

“I feel good, I feel happy, not disappointed at all,” Chan said afterward. “With all the buzz here at worlds . . . it’s been two world championships I haven’t been here. I haven’t been used to this high energy and high expectation. So, for me, it was a good achievement to have done that quad toe triple toe opening. I actually felt great going into the Axel, just rushed a little bit . . . slipped off my left foot on the take-off.

“Third is a great spot to be in going into the long.”

Pretty much the top-three as most had predicted. Even without the fall on his triple — always a sketchy jump for Chan — it’s unlikely he would have surpassed Fernandez.

“It’s tough to go back to starting over, back to ground zero and working my way back up,” Chan admitted the other day, building on the theme which he’s promulgated since returning to the competitive fray last fall — and winning Skate Canada, but it’s been an tough slog ever since apart from securing his eighth national title in January.

Reminders to self: Go at your own pace, follow your own rhythm, be realistic, don’t expect quick-step miracles.

Doesn’t come easy though, or naturally, for a practitioner of the skating craft who was not that long ago so far ahead of his pursuers.

Until Hanyu caught and overtook him in Sochi, palming the Olympic title Chan — just about everybody — had anticipated for himself.

So here he is in Boston, after a bumpy Grand Prix season, trying to re-assert himself as a skating one-per-center among men.

“I’m at a disadvantage now technically,” he admitted. “I’m competing against men who are doing five quads between the short program and the long program and I’m at three between the two programs. Who would ever imagine that three wasn’t enough for some people?”

Some people: Hanyu, Fernandez, China’s Boyang Jin, Japan’s Shoma Uno, to name just a few of the multi-quad squad, the latter two still mere teenagers.

And it’s hardly as if Chan isn’t a member in good quad standing as well. The four-rotation jump didn’t elude him Wednesday night. (It did, however, elude compatriot Nam Nguyen, who blew his opening quad-triple combination and then popped the triple Axel — an abysmal performance for the all-out-of-kilter growth-spurting 17-year-old from Toronto. “I’m just very, very upset with myself.”)

Chan’s skating, of course, has always been more nuanced and variable than the big quad trick. But his top rivals — both Hanyu and Fernandez train in Toronto under Brian Orser — are hardly slouches in the interpretive department. And Jin, artistic deficiencies notwithstanding, still put up a huge 89.86 score here.

What 21-year-old-old Hanyu, especially, has accomplished over the past year, post-Olympic gold, has been astonishing.

Twice within two weeks, in late 2015, Hanyu broke his own point records in the short and the long, twice crashing through the 300-point ceiling, first at NHK, then as three-peat champion at the Grand Prix final where Chan, on the strength of a powerful free skate, pulled himself up into fourth from sixth.

“I just have to be realistic and remind myself not to get too ahead of myself and chip away at every event.’’

And let the chips fall where they may.

TORONTO STAR | SPORTS

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