TORONTO (Reuters) - Patrick Chan tried hard to paint himself as the underdog on Monday as he assessed his chances of completing a hat-trick of world figure skating triumphs in March on home ice.
Even the Canadian had to chuckle when asked if he really believed he would not be the favorite to capture a third successive gold medal in London, Ontario, which will host the last world championships before the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
“Yuzuru (Hanyu of Japan) has been winning all the events this year and I think he has a lot more expectations. I think there is a lot more pressure on him,” a smiling Chan told reporters as the Canadian team was introduced at media conference at the top of the CN Tower.
“I am an underdog but I am in Canada so I have the confidence to go out and know I am a two-time world champion.”
However, it soon became evident that Chan was perhaps only trying to deflect the attention away form himself as he started talking defiantly about proving his detractors wrong.
“I think maybe some people have written me off as the next world champion again but a lot of the greats comeback from disappointing events,” he said.
“I’m a two-time world champion and a two-time world champion for a reason, I have the experience and experience takes you a long way in these kind of situations.”
Chan has not dominated the competition this season the way he did a year ago when he capped an undefeated campaign by winning a second world title.
Breaking in a new coach and choreographer, Chan had not stood atop a podium this season until capturing a sixth straight national title at the weekend.
A second place finish at Skate Canada in October followed by an even more lackluster third place at the Grand Prix final at the same Sochi arena that will host the Olympic competition next year set off alarm bells that all was not well in the Chan camp.
Chan has expressed some degree of frustration that he has so far been unable to produce the polished performance fans and judges have come expect but he knows he has the talent to become the first man since Russia’s Alexei Yagudin in 2000 to win three in a row.
“When I went to worlds last year I was feeling like I was having such a good season, an undefeated season and I wanted to keep that going,” said Chan. “After I won worlds and defended my title I didn’t really care, that’s done,” he said.
More than medals will be at stake in London, the results also determining how many entries countries will get for each of the four events, men’s and women’s singles, pairs and ice dance.
If the results of the top two finishers from each country in each event add up to 13 or less they will be awarded three spots in Sochi.
If the two results add up to 28 or less, a country will receive two berths. A top three finish in any event will also get a country three places in that discipline while a top 10 will get two.
With Chan and Olympic and world ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir leading the way Canada is expected to fill the maximum quota of three competitors in each of those events.
The challenge will be harder in the women’s singles where 17-year-old Kaetlyn Osmond, the newly crowned Canadian champion, will make her world championship debut while the pairs Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, will attempt to make the jump on to the podium after a fifth place at last year’s worlds.
“I just go out and do what I can because I know if I do my job and perform at my very best and I skate the way I like to skate I can get those spots,” assured Chan. “I don’t really need to think about that, that is the result of what I do.
“We’ll definitely get the spots.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar