It’s hard to believe that the Olympics concluded one week ago! As a storyteller who was drawn to “The Journey of Patrick Chan” during the last part of his competitive figure skating career, I am thrilled that I was able to witness an unexpected but satisfying conclusion to his odyssey full of exhilarating wins, crushing defeats, frustration, angst, and a comeback filled with high drama.
Since I am a relatively new fan of Patrick’s (from 2015), I beg your pardon in advance if you have followed him since the first day he burst on to the skating scene. I am sure you know of circumstances, people, places, and situations that I don’t know. However, I will attempt to lay out my honest observations of his journey’s end below.
Contributing Factors to Patrick’s Golden Win in Pyeongchang
Besides talent, hard work, and sheer tenacity, what other factors enabled Patrick to finally win that coveted Olympic gold medal in 2018?
- A powerful all-round Canadian team – strong in team unity, heart, and talent
- The leadership of Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue
- The friendship and encouragement of lifelong friends like Eric Radford
However, in order to win, other competitors and teams also had to cooperate (**or did they? See below for my analysis on whether Team Canada needed help to win the team gold). Nevertheless, I want to thank the following people:
- Yuzuru Hanyu: Granted, he was recovering from an injury, but I thank him for choosing to participate in the individual event only
- Team Japan: For sending Shoma into the team event short program (SP) competition only
- Team USA: For sending Nathan into the team event SP competition only
And last but not least, some luck. The early morning competition times and bad ice greatly affected most of the mens’ team event SP performances.
Perhaps some might sneer and say Team Canada won because the best of the best (at least from the men) did not participate in the team event, but I say that Patrick and Team Canada worked hard for it and did their very best – it did not just fall into their laps. They earned it the honest way and it will never be taken from them! See below for my detailed analysis on why they were the strongest team!
But Wait! Did Team Canada Really Need Help Winning Team Gold?
Is it really true that lack of participation by the top mens’ skaters helped Canada win the team gold?
One thing I had been concerned about is that 1) After winning, Patrick felt the need to clarify / explain / apologize (article) for his gold medal by saying that he would treat it the same as an individual event gold medal?! and 2) journalists like Steve Simmons of the National Post openly opined their disdain for the mixed curling and team figure skating gold medals (article).
But was Team Canada competent enough to take gold on their own merits? I wanted to prove it one way or another! To find the answer, I took the top individual event scores in each discipline from the ten countries that entered the team event and ranked and scored them in accordance with team event procedures (ISU scores here).
For example, for Team Japan I entered Yuzuru Hanyu’s short program and long program (LP) scores (the highest Japanese mens’ scores). In this scenario, he would have ranked first among the men in the team event competition and received 20 points for Team Japan – 10 points for his SP and 10 points for his LP. Patrick’s individual event SP score would have him ranked 4th, garnering 7 points for Team Canada. His LP would have been ranked 5th, giving his team 6 points.
With these new inputs from the individual event, the final five countries competing in the team event would have been Canada, OAR, USA, Japan and China, instead of Canada, OAR, USA, Italy and Japan. China would have edged out Italy by 1 point to get into the finals.
But would Hanyu’s fabulous scores have been enough to propel Team Japan to the team medals podium? It would not. Japan had very weak scores in the Pairs discipline, and China had weak scores in the Womens and Dance disciplines as well.
In the end, Canada would still win, closely followed by the OAR, with the USA trailing 10 points behind OAR for the Bronze, and Japan and China behind the Americans. Lovely, no? This proved that Canada did have the strongest overall team, and they deserved that gold medal! Yes, Patrick, Scott, Tessa, Eric, Meagan, Kaetlyn and Gabrielle can wear their gold medals with pride!
But Was Patrick the Weak Link?
The answer to this is a definitive NO. Even though Patrick’s struggles and absence during part of the 2017-2018 season led to fewer points in his Olympic competitive programs, could Canada have found a better male skater to do the job?
What if we took Keegan Messing’s individual event SP and LP scores for the team event instead? Using Keegan’s individual event scores compared to the other mens’ individual event scores, Canada would have received 6 points for his SP and 6 points for his LP, just 1 point less overall. So both Patrick and Keegan would have done well in this scenario.
However, when comparing Keegan’s individual event scores to the actual team event scores, he would have done comparatively worse. In the SP team event competition, with a score of 85.11 he still would have ranked 3rd, just like Patrick did. However, in the LP team event, with a score of 170.32 he would have ranked 4th compared to Patrick’s 179.75 that ranked 1st and gave Team Canada 10 points.
The question remains whether Skate Canada could have just sent Keegan to compete in the team event SP competition and Patrick to the team event LP competition, so Keegan could have won a team gold medal as well?
What If Nathan Chen Had Skated His SP Well?
In the scenario where we use the individual event scores to score the team event… What if Nathan Chen of the USA had performed his SP well and not fallen disastrously to 17th place in the individual event short program competition?
Well, let’s see. If we take Nathan’s best score of 104.12 from the 2017-2018 season (from the ISU Grand Prix Skate America 2017), and used it instead, he would have ranked 1st and the USA would have been awarded 10 points after the team SP competition. Does it make a difference? No.
If we used the individual event scores to score the team event, Nathan would have given Team USA 3 extra points, but it would still not be enough to close the gap between the USA and the OAR.
Using actual team event scores (not the individual event scores), Canada would have had 72 points for gold, OAR would still have 66 points, and the USA 65 points, just 1 point short of the silver medal.
The Unlikely Scenario in Which Canada Loses
Hypothetically, there was only one way Canada could have lost the team gold medal, and that would have only happened if 1) individual event scores were used to award team medals and 2) team medals were given out based solely on total scores earned across all disciplines, instead of by awarding team points after each SP and LP competition in each discipline.
In this hypothetical scenario, Team Canada’s total scores would be 954.67, while Team OAR’s total scores would be 954.96, just 0.29 more than Canada, and OAR would have won the team gold.
Fortunately, in the actual team event, if we were to add up the total scores earned across all disciplines, then Team Canada would have won by a comfortable margin, with total scores of 893.62 vs. OAR’s total scores of 886.46. Go Team Canada!
Every Asian Child’s Dream Come True
After winning gold, Patrick was being interviewed when he received an unexpected surprise that he was obliged to read on camera – a letter from his parents! As if “Dearest Beloved Son” wasn’t enough of a beginning, the rest of the letter not only made Patrick cry, but left many of his fans teary-eyed, including myself.
However, what is special about this letter (besides the obvious display of parental pride and affection in its words) was the fact that Patrick even received one, let alone had its contents made public! Most Asian parents are generally not very expressive of their affection or pride to their children. A cynical observer might think that his parents said these things only after he won a gold medal, but what was remarkable to me about Mr. and Mrs. Chan’s letter was how much they talked about their son’s growth as a person! That was even more important than the win!
Patrick had mentioned in an interview that his parents had grown so much along with him in his journey. I think this letter demonstrated their own personal growth, and I heartily applaud them for being brave enough to make it known publicly. I loved seeing Patrick’s radiant face when he read it, and the way he thanked his mom and dad at the end. When I was at Nationals in January, at the end of every practice he always greeted them and seemed so happy to see them. What a remarkable family!
Psst, perhaps they can persuade other Chinese and Asian parents to show such affection and esteem to their children – many tiger children are dying for similar words of encouragement!
A Wonderful Ending to the Patrick Chan Story
I think Patrick’s comeback from 2015 until now has had the elements of a movie in it. For a while, we did not know where or how this journey would end, especially during the tense weeks last fall when he hovered between quitting and continuing the struggle to Mount Olympus. It was a period of time when fans like me were worried and anxiously praying for him. But the path to team gold, which had always been a clear possibility, was made even more obvious and Patrick decided to go for it. It was a chaotic final sprint to the finish line, but he did it!
As a fan, I couldn’t be happier or more proud of him and the entire Canadian figure skating team. What camaraderie! What team spirit and friendship! To hear that the team wanted to do it for Patrick (article), and how Eric encouraged him not to think about owing them anything… I knew they were all good friends, but this was a type of loyalty not seen very often among figure skaters. They worked hard together, fought together, and secured the golden victory together! So now Patrick has his own Olympic gold medal and I am happy. I hope he is happy, too – he seems to be.
Now excuse me as I sigh and let a contented smile spread over my face. This was way better than a happy ending to a movie, because it was real. In the future, every time I remember the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in figure skating, I will grin.
And now, what next? With gold often comes opportunities not given to silver and bronze medalists. I’m sure that the world will open up to Patrick and he will have to say “no” to a lot in order to do what he truly wants to do – if he knows what that is. I wish him the very best now and in the future as he pursues a new identity and the next new adventure in his life! Godspeed, Patrick Chan!