SOCHI, Russia – Patrick Chan vowed to hunt down overnight leader Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and tried to heap pressure on his Winter Olympics rival with a surprisingly acerbic challenge after placing second in Thursday’s short program.
Chan, usually mild mannered and somewhat reserved, pulled no punches after his routine, insisting that Hanyu could buckle under the strain of being within touching distance of a gold medal.
The Canadian favorite admitted he was surprised at Hanyu’s score of 101.45, ahead of Chan’s 97.52, but vowed to overhaul the deficit in Friday’s free skate.
“I like being second, I like being in the chase,” Chan said. “Now I can go out and enjoy my program while Yuzuru has a bit of a target that he is not quite used to. And on the Olympic stage the target is doubled in size. We will see how he handles it.
“It is tough knowing that you have the lead and you can blow it. You can have a successful long program and win it all. It is kind of like going all in on a blackjack table.”
Chan will hope that he finally hits the Olympic jackpot after finishing fifth in Vancouver as a 19-year-old in 2010. He faces a stiff task in chasing down Hanyu, with the Japanese youngster having endeared himself to the judges with a crisp and energetic routine.
Chan insisted his experience of having won three world championship titles could come into play when things get tense at Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace.
“Tomorrow is truly a new day,” he said. “I have great confidence in this program as I have had a great season with it. I have a plan.
“It (weighed) on me when I was in the lead in all my events in my career. Luckily I don’t have to do it at the Olympics – I don’t have to have that challenge.
“The long program can change a lot of things. Tomorrow is proof of who is really comfortable with your program. Every world championship I went to after winning the first I felt like I was being chased. People are trying to figure out what you are doing and what is giving you the edge. I have done it – three times.”
With the ultimate opportunity for Games glory in front of him, Chan may never had been more focused and that mindset seems unshakeable, even if it means taking a single-minded, even selfish approach.
The hunt for gold means putting everything, even his country, out of his thoughts and keeping his focus entirely isolated on the job at hand.
Asked how he would approach the long program, Chan answered: “Have fun.”
He added: “Remember that I am doing this for myself, not for anyone else. Not for Canada, not for the media, really for myself. Taking a deep breath out there and remember that I am only going to get one more chance to skate in front of an audience on Olympic ice. It is fun, it will be great to go out and chase.”
If Chan can inject as much fighting spirit into his performance as he did into his words, then he might just find a way to close the gap on Hanyu.
Hanyu, who trains in Toronto and is coached by former world champion and 1988 Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, and Chan are well clear of the field. Spain’s Javier Fernandez is way back in third place at 86.98. Jason Brown of the United States sits sixth at 86.00 and will skate in the final group.