We sat down with Patrick Chan, three-time World Champion and Olympic silver medalist, to discuss life after competitive figure skating. From fatherhood to his thoughts on the new generation, Patrick Chan gives us a glimpse into his world.
Solène: How are you?
Patrick: I'm busy; life has changed completely. I'm a dad, I have a two-year-old son named Oliver, and I'm working a regular job. So it's very different than it used to be, but it's also great. I'm excited about what the future holds.
Solène: Is your son skating?
Patrick: He started by skating in the living room (laughs). We play music, and he skates on the hardwood floors. We found a pair of figure skates and now bring him to our local arena. And when my wife Liz (NB: Elizabeth Putnam, former Canadian pair skater) is coaching, sometimes I bring him out for 10 or 15 minutes. There are days when he loves it and then days when he hates it and doesn't want to be there. But it's so fun to watch, and now he's starting to watch the videos of my programs. I can't believe this is happening. If you told me ten years ago that I'd have a son who would be watching me perform on TV, it would have been hard to believe, but he loved it, and he points at the TV saying, "Papa!". He loves music and performing. He's not shy. He inherited that more from Liz than from me.
Solène: What have you focused on professionally since retiring from competitive figure skating?
Patrick: It's been a bit of a journey. After the pandemic, I got into commercial real estate. It's a tricky business to get into, and now, the high interest rates have slowed things down. It's a very hot and cold market, so I've recently transitioned to a new job in financial services. These are things that I wish I had learned when I was skating. I did not study while I was competing. One of my regrets is not having pursued a university education like Nathan Chen. I honestly wasn't talented enough to handle so many things simultaneously. I tend to panic in those moments. The fact that I did not have any university degree was scary when I was trying to find a job. Luckily, with friends, networks and through skating, I got opportunities. Having some name recognition also helped a lot. I'm doing an internship right now, so I'm starting at the bottom, but that's okay as long as I have an opportunity to learn and grow. Being a student again is my happy place. I'm excited about this opportunity.
Solène: In the current men's field, who are your favorite skaters?
Patrick: I watched Ilia Malinin's performance at Skate America. It's hard not to be curious. At Skate Canada, I was excited to see Junhwan Cha. I love the way he skates. I was also excited to see Wesley Chiu, Conrad Orzel, and Liam Kapeikis. We live in an exciting period of transition from the Yuzuru Hanyu era. Everyone's starting to turn over. There are very few skaters left; even Michal Brezina retired (laughs) and is now coaching. We're witnessing a new generation of skaters aiming to be the next great talents. I was lucky enough to take advantage of moments like that where I got to establish myself after the 2010 Olympics, and now I'm excited to see who's going to be the next one.
Solène: What was your reaction when you first saw Ilia Malinin's quad Axel?
Patrick: Oh, my God. I pinched myself. I couldn't believe it. I remember someone asking me if it was ever going to be done. I was like, "Are you crazy? That's impossible". Ilia defied the odds and expectations. He did the impossible, which is already an accomplishment at his age. How lucky for him to be so accomplished already. It'll be interesting to see if we will see him this year try and land the quad Axel. Why do it now when he doesn't need to? Maybe save it for the Olympics in a few years instead of doing it now and risk having an injury? The whole strategy will have to change for athletes and how they approach their training and competition.
Solène: Looking back on your career and the evolution of men's figure skating, especially with more advanced jumps like the quad Axel, how do you feel about balancing the technical and artistic sides?
Patrick: After the first two Olympics, I had enough technically and artistically; it was the perfect balance to become an Olympic champion and world champion. But after 2014, that's when things shifted. Yuzuru and I were the catalysts of this evolution of skating, and Nathan resulted from that high-level competition. That was a big jump from me to Yuzuru, and then Nathan was the next level. When I went to the 2018 Olympics, I knew I didn't have enough technically or artistically to be an Olympic champion. I knew right away on the plane to the Olympics it would have to be a miracle. It was tough to understand and convince myself that I could still skate without the possibility of being a champion, which was difficult for me to accept at the time. Now, I see it as a complete picture, and it's all about the evolution of the sport. It's incredible now that the result is that we have someone doing quad Axel. It's so exciting for us to watch.
Solène: Do you often skate?
Patrick: If I'm preparing for Stars on Ice, then I'll get on the ice two or three times a week. I don't just skate for fun; I have to have a specific reason to get on the ice. I was never really like a creative mind. Let me know what to do, and I'll do it. Also, I rarely have time for it, with parenting and work commitments. When I have free time, it's usually at home cooking dinner and doing everyday household tasks.
Solène: What is your role in this year's Skate Canada?
Patrick: I'm the athlete ambassador. I'm a liaison between the athletes and the audience. There's, unfortunately, not as much interaction with the skaters who are competing, and of course, they have to stay focused. So I'm helping them out and interacting with the audience and reminiscing about my own experience and sharing that with fans.
Solène MATHIEU - Skate Info Glace