Chan the exception(al) in wacky night at worlds

Updated: March 13, 2013, 11:17 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON, Ontario -- Patrick Chan delivered the biggest thrill in a night full of them.

The two-time defending champion shattered the world record for the short program Wednesday night, restoring order to standings that no one could have predicted when the World Figure Skating Championships began.

Chan's score of 98.37 for his elegantly sublime performance beat the previous world record by more than three points.

When he saw the mark, the Canadian's jaw dropped and the crowd let out a roar that could be heard across the country. He is almost seven points ahead of Denis Ten of Kazakhstan going into Friday night's free skate.

"This feels almost as great as the Vancouver Olympics," Chan said. "I love the Canadian fans. They're inspirational and create excitement."

No, Chan and Co. had that covered.

European champion Javier Fernandez and Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, last year's bronze medalist, were expected to challenge Chan for the title. But they didn't even make the top five after flawed programs, upstaged by the little-known Ten and Kevin Reynolds.

Ten, who has never finished higher than seventh at the world championships or an Olympics, is second (91.56). Canada's Kevin Reynolds (85.16) is third after doing two quadruple jumps.

"I'm shocked," Ten admitted.

U.S. champion Max Aaron is in eighth place. But the U.S. hopes of regaining a third men's spot at the Sochi Olympics all but ended after Ross Miner fell on his quadruple salchow and finished 15th. The Americans would need a combined placement of 13 or better -- fifth and eighth, say -- to qualify for three spots in Sochi.

"I'm pretty disappointed with how I skated," Miner said. "It's not the way I trained. My coach told me I have until 11 tonight to be angry. Then I regroup and get ready for the free skate Friday. I'm ready to do that. "

Chan has dominated men's skating since the Vancouver Olympics. He's won the last two world titles along with last season's Grand Prix Final, and he was usually so far ahead no one else ever had a chance.

But he started this season in a funk, losing his first competition in nearly two years when he finished second to Fernandez at Skate Canada. His bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final was the first time since Vancouver that he'd fail to finish first or second.

Admittedly feeling "panicked," Chan decided to shake things up, leaving his home base in Colorado Springs, Colo., to train in Detroit for the past three weeks.

Clearly, the change of scenery has done wonders because his performance was simply exquisite.

"I worked very hard for the past three weeks, which really paid off," Chan said. "Setting a new world record is just the icing on the cake."

He uses his blades as an artist does a brush, turning an ice rink into a colorful canvas. He doesn't skate to the music so much as he is possessed by it, his body becoming an instrument.

It's the kind of performance most skaters can only dream of and it had the audience spellbound, the arena silent except for the whispered carvings of his edges.

The audience was on its feet even before his music stopped, and Chan shook his fists before burying his face in his hands. He looked up and into the crowd, smiling as he blew kisses at the fans cheering and waving Canadian flags.

It was the perfect end to a delightfully wild night.

Ten was a dismal 12th just last month at Four Continents -- an event that doesn't include the Europeans. Whatever he did since then, he should bottle and sell to figure skaters and their coaches, because he was electrifying Wednesday night.

His opening quad toe loop was beautiful, and the program only got better from there. Not even the judges could find errors, giving him the maximum level fours on all of his spins and footwork. He also had positive grades of execution on all of his jumps.

But what made his program so memorable was his perfect portrayal of the Oscar-winning movie, "The Artist." He looked like a silent film star, pantomiming throughout his program. The only time he failed to show expression was when his marks were announced.

"I am happy," Ten said. "It was a surprise."

Reynolds has put up some good results in recent years -- he won Four Continents -- but Chan casts a long shadow over the other Canadian men. It was going to take something spectacular to get the world's attention, and Reynolds sure found a way.

While some of the top men are debating whether to do a second quad in their free skate, he did it in the short program. Granted, the second, a quad toe loop, was two-footed.

But the judges gave him credit for it, hammering him on the execution grade instead. Even with that deduction, he still earned him a ton of points.

Make no mistake, though, Reynolds can do more than jump. His program, to "Chambermaid Swing," was delightfully dancy and playful, and he had the audience moving and grooving in its seats.

"I need to keep momentum going," Reynolds said.

Earlier Wednesday, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov edged Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford in the pairs short program. No big surprise, considering the Russians have won every event they've been in this season, including the Grand Prix Final and European championships.

But they don't have this title locked up quite yet. Their score of 75.84 is 2.23 points ahead of Duhamel and Radford, with four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy another 0.14 points back. The free skate is Friday.

"One more day (to) show our best," Volosozhar said. "The key to winning is to just skate, show our emotions and our elements."

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

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