As strange as it may sound to call a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics a disappointment, that is exactly how figure skater Patrick Chan classified his accomplishment, per the Canadian Olympic Team’s official Twitter page:
Disappointing or not, Chan was right about one thing—his failure to win gold will not negatively impact his career going forward. He is poised for men's figure skating superstardom after his silver medal-winning performance.
Before we set the stage for Chan’s ascendance in the sport, it is worth breaking down why the silver medal was a disappointment in the first place.
Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan was completely dominant in the short program, setting an all-time scoring record in the process. However, the eventual gold medalist fell on multiple occasions in the free skate portion of the event, which set the stage for Chan to emerge victorious.
Chan didn't even need a perfect skate, just a relatively clean one.
Instead, Chan erred three times himself, most notably on a relatively easy (by Olympian standards) double axel. With context, it is easier to see why Chan was somewhat disappointed with the result in Sochi.
The entire men’s figure skating field seemed to struggle in the free skate, perhaps because of the inevitable fatigue that comes with such a long program.
While the 19-year-old Hanyu was far from perfect, he showed incredible maturity when speaking through an interpreter to reporters about what his accomplishment means to his home city of Sendai, which is still recovering from a devastating 2011 earthquake (per Philip Hersh of the Los Angeles Times):
Yes, I am an Olympic gold medalist now, but this medal cannot help the recovery in that region. I feel like I am helpless here. I feel like I am not making any contribution.
I worked very hard to get this gold medal. That might be wonderful for me. Because I am a gold medalist in the Olympics, I think this can be the starting point for me. Perhaps there is something I can do for the recovery.
The fact that Hanyu is so young means that the 23-year-old Chan will likely face off with the gold medalist in many of the sport’s biggest events going forward.
Confidence does not seem to be an issue for the Canadian, made evident in his comments to reporters following the short skate portion in Sochi (per ESPN.com’s Jim Caple):
I like being in second. I like being in the chase. It's exciting for me. Now I can go out and enjoy the program, whereas Yuzuru has a bit of a target on his back that he's not quite used to. At the Olympics the target is kind of doubled in size. We'll see how he handles it.
Why shouldn't Chan be confident? He now has a silver medal to go with his fifth place finish in the 2010 Games in Vancouver. He is also a six-time Canadian national champion and has won the past three World Championships.
In fact, Chan has built himself something of a mini-dynasty by medaling in every international competition he has entered since the 2010 Olympics.
With a resume like that, Chan will be a force in figure skating for years to come. He is more than capable of cleaning up the issues he had on a couple of jumps in Sochi.
Besides, it’s not as if Hanyu was completely dominant—don't forget that his free skate was far from perfect.
Had Chan skated his personal best, he would have been the one with the gold medal.
He'll make sure to do just that in the years leading up to the 2018 Games.
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