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Chan wins second straight gold at figure skating worlds

The Canadian Press

3/31/2012 4:48:43 PM

NICE, France -- If his first world figure skating title was all smooth sailing, Patrick Chan's second was anything but.

The Canadian star is golden again, overcoming boos, bruises and the pressure of being a defending champion to claim his second consecutive world figure skating title in what he called the most difficult competition of his career.

The 21-year-old from Toronto overcame a wobbly performance that included a fall on his double Axel to become the first Canadian to claim back-to-back world gold medals in 16 years. And it came on the heels of a rough couple of weeks of training that he admitted had him feeling sick and tired of the ice rink.

"It's more special than the first (title) to me because that week before I came here was a really tough week, I almost wanted to quit," Chan said. "I had doubts, I doubted myself, like, 'Oh my god, maybe I'll be the guy who lost it and didn't make it happen when he was so close."'

Dressed in black slacks and dark red shirt, Chan scored 176.70 points to win the free skate to the haunting sounds of "Concierto de Aranjuez," finishing with 266.11 overall -- a winning result that didn't sit well with some of the fans at the Palais des Expositions, who booed and whistled when the score was announced.

"I really didn't hear it, I didn't hear any of the negative boos, because it's so much more than that, it's so much more than getting hung up on a couple of people booing," Chan said afterward. "I wasn't sure it was cheers or boos. Either way it was pretty cool. It shows they care, right? So that's always a good thing."

Daisuke Takahashi of Japan won the silver with 259.66 points, while countryman Yuzura Hanyu was third with 251.06 in his world senior debut. Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., was 12th.

Chan's victory came two days after Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir captured their second world title.

Carolina Kostner of Italy won the women's title, while Canada's Amelie Lacoste was 16th.

Chan, who hasn't lost a competition in more than a year, landed two huge quad jumps early in the program and looked poised to run away with the victory before his uncharacteristic fall on his takeoff on the Axel with about a minute to go that seemed to suck all the energy out of the remainder of the program.

"I bruised my butt pretty good, so I guess that's the punishment," said Chan, who sat on an ice pack in the news conference afternoon. "It was funny, you've got to spice it up sometimes a little bit.

"I guess it's not really normal if I don't make a mistake, it's kind of like my thing to do, I always have a weird fall," he added laughing it off.

The pressure of being the defending champion is no joke though, said Chan.

"People are like, 'Oh yeah, if he does it, he should be the winner, if he doesn't do it, shame on him,"' he said. "It's a unique position, maybe uncomfortable sometimes. But I think I made it over the hump now."

Chan is the first Canadian to win back-to-back world titles in any discipline since Elvis Stojko in 1994 and '95. He's also the first skater to win consecutive men's titles since Switzerland's Stephane Lambiel (2005 and '06).

The five-time Canadian champion arrived in Nice as the heavy favourite, boasting a string of consecutive victories that stretches back 16 months. He set three world scoring records at the world championships last year in Moscow and never slowed down, winning Skate Canada, the Trophee Bompard in Paris, the Four Continents and Grand Prix Final, and collected eight athlete of the year awards in Canada, including the Lionel Conacher Award as The Canadian Press male athlete of the year.

Chan was the last to skate Saturday, 40 minutes after the on-ice warmup. He spent the time in between laying with his feet up and playing cards with his coach Christy Krall.

The 17-year-old Hanyu had already brought the crowd to its feet, despite a fall in his performance to music from "Romeo and Juliet."

"I was very nervous, I felt the pressure," Hanyu said. "I didn't expect to get on the podium at my first world championships. I was very surprised."

Takahashi, the 2010 world champion, skated a nearly flawless performance to a sultry blues tune, landing one quad.

Chan opened with a picture-perfect quad toe loop, then a quad-triple combination that received the highest marks of any element of the night. The fall cost him though as he finished second behind Hanyu in technical marks, but first in components -- what were known as the presentation marks under the old scoring system.

"You look at the opening, the first three jumps he loads up a lot of points," said Skate Canada's high performance director Mike Slipchuk. "And then the quality of things. He had mistakes out there today ... but I felt his footwork, his spins and all that were done well today, and he made a lot of points in that area."

Reynolds' 12th-place finish guarantees three entries for Canada in men's singles at next year's world championships in London, Ont. (If the combined results of two skaters totals 13 or less, that country gets three berths the following year.)

"I've done my job, I finished top-12. It's up to Patrick now," Reynolds said laughing, before Chan took the ice.

Reynolds landed a quad Salchow and then doubled his second quad attempt.

Kostner captured the women's crowd with a score of 189.94, while Russia's Alena Leonova won the silver with 184.28, and Akiko Suzuko of Japan took the bronze with 180.68.

Lacoste, from Delson, Que., had a rough night, falling twice and doubling two planned triple jumps to finish with 138.60.