Patrick Chan knows all about failing to land axels at the Olympics. This time around, he's more chilled.
The Canadian skater fell during a triple axel in the men's short program Friday and finished sixth, 14 points off the bronze-medal position and 21 off gold.
In Sochi four years ago, errors on double and triple axels were a factor in Chan losing out on gold to Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, a tough experience to come back from. What's changed for Chan since then?
An Olympic gold medal.
Chan was part of the Canadian squad that won team gold Monday, a success achieved despite Chan's less-than-perfect skates. Canadian pair Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford cited that success as an energizing factor in pushing them harder for a pairs medal — they took bronze on Thursday — while for Chan, the gold eased the pressure.
"I don't owe anyone anything and it's really what I want to do on this day for myself," he said. "I have a gold medal, and now it's just proving to myself that I can be better every single day, and that I'm a better athlete after these games than I was in Sochi or even last year."
Chan went into Friday's skate as one of the contenders for a medal, not the gold-medal favorite he was in Sochi. That also makes life easier.
"Expectations are just so low now," he said. "I can have moments where it's frustrating, like falling on the triple axel or being in the kiss-and-cry and really being upset by myself. But I come back. It gives me five minutes. It gives me the liberty to just walk away, and that's just what happens sometimes."
Regardless of the new mindset and hours of practice, one thing won't work out for Chan: the axel.
"When you're in competition mode your body just reverts to the movements it's done nine of out of 10 times," instead of better technique, he said. "I've been dealt a bad card since I think growing up; I never had great technique on the axel. I'm just trying to redeem myself now and tomorrow's another chance. All I can do now is just keep on pushing and going for it."
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