Chan trapped between two worlds

Wed Dec 7, 2011 5:05pm EST
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By Pritha Sarkar

LONDON (Reuters) - Growing up in Ottawa and Toronto as the precocious child of Chinese immigrants, Patrick Chan always dreamt of the day he would whizz around for a victory lap in one of the world's premier skating arenas draped in Canada's Maple Leaf flag.

Once that vision came true in April in Moscow's Khodynka Ice Palace, where he was crowned world champion after romping to victory by decimating the opposition with record scores, Chan discovered that the reality did not quite match up to his ideology.

As he approaches his 21st birthday, Chan feels more and more drawn towards his Chinese heritage.

"If you look at all the sports in China, the government is extremely involved and they are extremely proud of their athletes. People understand better what we do as skaters," Chan told Reuters in a telephone interview ahead of this week's Grand Prix Final in Quebec.

"Sometimes I feel we are not appreciated for how much work we put in. If my parents hadn't emigrated from China and say I had skated for China, things would have been very different. My parents wouldn't have had to make as much sacrifices as they have and there would be a lot more respect for what we do as figure skaters.

"I'm extremely well recognized in Korea just because of what I do on the ice and there is a lack of that in Canada because hockey is our sport and it will be for eternity. Figure skating has lost the draw and the attention (it used to have before)."

Whereas Elvis Stojko and Kurt Browning were treated as rockstars and showered with plaudits during the 1980s and 90s -- when Canadian men glided to eight world titles in 11 years -- the skating landscape for Chan in 2011 is very different.

"Several years ago I felt more Canadian but I'm slowly feeling more Chinese and feel I should be more proud of being Chinese and appreciate where I've come from. (This is because) of the support I get from the Chinese community in Canada," Chan, who is fluent in English, French and Cantonese, said as he took a break from his intensive training schedule.   Continued...