From teenage Olympian to Athlete Role Model: former skater Chan eager for the YOG experience
When it comes to figure skating success, Patrick Chan has been there and done it. With one gold and two silver medals from his three Olympic Games, the Canadian was also a three-time world champion. Now retired from competitive skating, he is relishing the chance to share his knowledge with winter sport’s next generation at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
He might be a veteran of three Olympic Winter Games, but former figure skater Patrick Chan says going to the Lausanne 2020 Winter YOG will be just like his first time all over again.
“For some of the athletes it’s their first international competition, seeing the Olympic rings for the first time,” Chan says. “But this is also brand-new territory for me.”
The 28-year-old Canadian will be in Switzerland as an Athlete Role Model, supporting and mentoring youngsters from all sports as they test themselves under the Olympic rings.
As Chan was already an Olympian when the first Winter YOG were held in Innsbruck in 2012, he never had the chance to experience the event from the athletes’ perspective. That, however, has only heightened his sense of anticipation for the experience that lies ahead of him in Lausanne.
“I’m looking forward to experiencing the Olympics all over again, but in a very different role,” he explains. “That’s going to be very much an exciting moment for me.”
Although he has three Olympic medals to his name – silver in men’s singles and the team event from the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, and team gold from PyeongChang 2018 – Chan revealed that his Olympic experience was much richer than the competition alone. And he expects the Lausanne 2020 athletes to enjoy a similarly seismic life experience.
“Any international competition is a positive, and it’s good for any amateur athlete to experience the Olympic Movement at such an early age,” he says.
“It’s a great way to expose these young athletes to other cultures and other countries. It really does change your life. The perspective you get is amazing.
“Pushing yourself to your limit and finding out how you react in a pressure-filled situation in competition, you learn a lot about yourself. There’s no experience quite like it. There’s nothing in day-to-day life that imitates that same feeling, that same nervousness.
“I hope the athletes really appreciate, especially in today’s world where we’re filled with distractions and tied to our phones, taking a moment to compete in something physical and trying to best each other – but in a friendly manner,” Chan says.
The Toronto man admits it took him some time to fully appreciate the importance of representing his nation on the international stage, and he hopes that is something the Youth Olympians grasp as early as possible.
“I hope they understand the importance of sport and how sport can bring countries together,” he says. “I want these young people to feel like they can represent and be responsible.”
Chan competed in his first Olympic Games – Vancouver 2010 – when he was a teenager. Looking back now, he admits he did not realise the significance of his achievement, or how to appreciate the fact that he was competing in front of a home crowd.
“I was only 19 so I didn’t really understand how big the Olympics in Vancouver were and how they would change amateur athletes in Canada forever,” he says. “Vancouver was very much a learning experience – I was absorbing so many stimulating, different things. I’d never seen the country come together like that.
“Then I went to Sochi as a favourite. Those Olympics were very stressful. I didn’t really enjoy those Olympics as I was so focused on the result.
“[PyeongChang] 2018 was full circle. I knew I wasn’t going to win a gold medal in the individual event. I was competing for my team, and winning a gold medal in the team was the goal.”
As he prepares for his fourth Olympic experience, Chan hopes Lausanne 2020 will provide the perfect opportunity to pass on his years of elite-level experience to those who need it most.
“At such a young age, it’s such an important time in their careers, both mentally and physically,” he says. “I hope the athletes will be comfortable coming up to me, and I hope that I can give them a very honest experience.”
Olympic Channel Video: patrick-chan-can-9th-place-men-s-free-skating
By Olympic Information Service