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Patrick Chan Non-Nebelhorn Update, September 27-October 1, 2017

Last updated: Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Last week, skating fans noticed the conspicuous absence of Patrick’s name from the Nebelhorn Trophy roster, which set off some speculation on the state of his health, why he dropped out, etc. According to Lynn Rutherford:

No announcement was made (which seems to be the norm for Patrick these days), but I have no doubt that he skipped this competition to do more important things. I hope he’s working on two nice new costumes for “Dust in the Wind” and “Hallelujah” as well! It seems that he spent last weekend in Vancouver and may still be there this week.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy some more photos I found from his last competition at the Onyx Trophy (scroll down below). And, if you want my take on how Patrick can overcome the “talent curse” this Olympic season, read on further!


October 1: More Vancouver Practice!

You can always tell when Patrick is really smiling in a photo because of his crescent moon-shaped eyes. So far he’s looked very happy to be in photos with other young skaters from Van.


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September 29: Exploring Vancouver Sports Facilities

Patrick paid three visits to the Poirier Sports & Leisure Complex during the week! Are those skates broken in yet?

blessed to see his quads in person!!

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Nope, can’t break in those skates here…


September 27: 2018 RBC Olympian

Royal Bank of Canada announced their 2018 RBC Olympians, and once again, Patrick was selected!

Congratulations to Patrick!


September 25: Monday in Vancouver

It’s always nice to freak out a fan on Monday… 🙂


September 23: Richmond Olympic Oval in Vancouver

Patrick took this photo with a young skater on Saturday!


More Photos from Last Month’s Onyx Trophy

Such an adorable pic from the sidewalk!

Sampiyon ⛸

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Scroll through for more Patrick!

My prediction for this 2017-2018 season: It will be unpredictable, because Patrick has been keeping quiet about his plans. In fact, I can see him doing what he did at World Team Trophy (WTT) where he substituted a more difficult jump (quad sal) for his second planned jump! Or he will keep surprising more skaters and fans by walking into their rinks on any given day! But perhaps a low profile is a better idea, because in this Olympic year he will need to overcome… the curse of the skating star! Read more about it below.


How Patrick Can Survive the Olympics This Season

Last week, I saw this article and sent it to Patrick, because I thought he would be able to relate to it a lot. Imagine, if it is this difficult for adults to be labeled a star and have shiny expectations placed upon them, how much more for Patrick, who has been on top of the figure skating world for more than a decade! I thought the following points from the article were relevant to what we have seen from Patrick’s figure skating journey.

Talent: From Possession to Identity

“…what we see is that what goes from having a talent and using it, really translates to people saying, you are talented. And it becomes a piece of my sense of self. And then it becomes an expectation that I need to live up to– wow, you know I’ve been put on this program, and suddenly I have to perform, I have to deliver.”

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There is no doubt in my mind that Patrick is a natural-born all-around athlete. His demonstrated competency in so many sports – running, skiing, golf, swimming, surfing, paddleboarding, and even throwing a baseball – indicates to me that if he wanted to become a world-class athlete in any sport he chose, he could do it. I imagine that he was told he was talented from a young age. How could he not be? Has this become a piece of his sense of self – something he is, and therefore something he has to live up to? Most definitely this was the case at an early age. I cannot imagine the pressure of expectations that he (and others) placed on himself as he tried to live up to “Patrick Chan, Star Figure Skater”. I believe this was a factor that contributed to his failure at Sochi.

Ever since then, Patrick has talked a lot about “skating for himself”. But can he do this if he doesn’t really know what that means? For someone whose talent has presumably been tied to his sense of self for so long, it might be very difficult. Who is Patrick Chan without his skating talent? Does he know? He will find out soon enough when he retires from competitive skating.

Performing and Conforming

“They have some kind of special gift. They can do things in a way other people can’t, and suddenly we’re asking them to behave in a very uniform way, behave all the same. So there’s a real discrepancy that people get caught in.”

The sport of figure skating, like any other organization (corporate or not), has its own rules, values, and competencies to live up to, and these elements are rapidly changing. As the men rush towards attaining ever higher technical scores, the other factors that distinguish each skater and make them unique have been fading from importance. Even Patrick wondered if so-called “style skaters” would become extinct:

What allowed Patrick to skate to the top of the podium was his unique talent and ability to carve those edges across a vast span of the ice with his blades. Now, he has had to conform to the current quad-jumping phenomenon because even judges prefer it and score accordingly. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded if he kept performing flawless but technically less difficult programs such as his “Blackbird” program at the 2017 Worlds that placed third in the short program competition. This season he seems to be striking a balance by adding a second quad to his short program while keeping out any new quads in his long program for the time being.

Shiny Patrick Only, Please

“So oftentimes when organizations say be authentic at work… What they mean is bring those authentic pieces of you that we like, that we value… what this does is reduces us to just those shiny pieces of ourselves. But… those talents often stem from a darker place. And what this invitation to bring your best self does is divorce those two pieces of ourselves. So it’s like, I would like your creativity, but I really don’t want your angst… And this is very dangerous because it’s essentially an impossible thing to do. It’s divorcing these two sides of ourselves which are really two sides of the same coin.”

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Fortunately, Patrick has always been more or less honest about his frustrations with his competitive career, even though lately he has been more careful in his responses. I attribute this to his growth and maturity as a person as well as his work with a sports psychologist to focus on mental toughness. Nevertheless, I would rather hear about his challenges and struggles than have him pretend that there are none.

I don’t know how much in general the people in the sport of figure skating – fans, coaches, judges, parents, etc. are tolerant of a skater’s angst and personal challenges. Since the sport emphasizes beauty as well as athleticism, my guess is not very much. This year we have already seen two young women (Yulia Lipnitskaya and Gracie Gold) leave the sport, temporarily or permanently, and it is a shame for the sport to lose them. We haven’t lost any of the men yet, but it is only a matter of time, unless the message changes from “you must keep up with what everyone else is doing” to “challenge yourself, but do it because you are good at it and you really enjoy jumping.” As Patrick has said, we are going into unknown territory with this multi-quad trend, and time will tell whether it takes a heavy toll on skaters’ mental and physical health.

Can’t Let the Group(s) Down

“So it’s not just that you’re talented, it’s that you’re a talented Asian, and there aren’t many of those in the organization. And then it can double down on this feeling that I’m not only expected to perform because I’m labeled talented, but I’m also expected to perform because I’m the only– or one of the very few– Asian managers. And so if I don’t do well, I’m going to let my group down.”

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I think that this feeling, along with the pressure to be the first Canadian man to win an Olympic gold in figure skating, contributed to Patrick’s disappointment at Sochi. Even if he tried to not think about it, the thoughts were probably in the back of his mind that he would be letting down all Canadians and all Chinese-Canadians if he did not win. The feeling that he had to win for others would have made him more anxious, resulting in a sub-par performance. Hopefully this season he can remain free of these pressures and expectations and just do his best.

“Every opportunity becomes an obligation, and every challenge becomes a test.”

Imagine having to skate out of obligation, with every challenge being a test or punishment. What a dreary competitive career that would be! And yet I believe this is one reason why Patrick has not enjoyed competition as much, especially when he first came back in 2015. Opportunities and challenges are often good learning experiences, but they would be frustrating to a person who is trying to live up to the image of a talented person – a perfect image with no weaknesses. Ah, perfectionism. Patrick is hopefully by now a recovering perfectionist (see my take on Patrick and perfectionism here), or he will continue to be frustrated, and this would not benefit him during competition.

Solutions to the Talent Curse

Researcher Jennifer Petriglieri, who also wrote “The Talent Curse”, outlined a few solutions that might help talented people like Patrick. I’m sure his sports psychologist is already working with him on some of these.

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“Bring your whole self, not just your best self, to work. It’s tempting to show only the shiny, polished facets of ourselves—especially when we value them and others appreciate them. But our greatest talents often spring from wounds and quirks, from the rougher, less conformist sides of ourselves… Don’t fight these darker sources of your talent.”

“… My personal experience has been the more I can disconnect from [my talent], the easier it is to use, which sounds very counter-intuitive. But the more I see it as a possession in my handbag if you like, as opposed to a coat I’m wearing, the easier it is to use.”

“Own your talent, don’t be possessed by it. A key shift occurs… when a high potential realizes that his or her role is not to deliver more than others, but to deliver more with others.”

“Value the present. This is the most important step in breaking the curse. Look at the expectations, the pressures, and the doubts you face as challenges that all leaders face. They won’t go away once you prove yourself worthy—they’ll only intensify. So now is the time to muster the resources you’ll need to manage them over the long run.”

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Patrick Chan is who he is and not his skating talent. I hope he understands this and is able to use his talent freely on the ice with joy, gratitude, and peace this season. I truly believe that an inspired Patrick is a sight for the world to see. Go for it, Patrick!


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