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Figure skaters wrap up Canada’s first Olympic gold in Pyeongchang

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA — Hallelujah, Canada.
And “Hallelujah” Patrick Chan. Artistically and metaphorically, the classic song of praise and mourning by Leonard Cohen — as covered in this version by Jeff Buckley — was the perfect interpretive vehicle for the 10-time Canadian champion.
It lifted him — and his Canadian team event platoon — to Olympic champion.
It helped bring Canada its first gold medal of the Pyeongchang Olympics.
What was so crushingly lost four years ago in Sochi — that hole has been filled, at least in Chan’s heart.
Not the singles title that slipped away that night in Russia. But the team title, which perhaps the Canadian squad didn’t take as seriously as they should have when the event made its Games debut. Only to realize too late the opportunity missed.
Chan, who has become almost the Hamlet of figure skating — to be or not to be and Olympian once more — and often in the past two years clearly regretting his decision to return, was far from clean and nowhere near perfect here Monday morning. His nemesis jump, the triple Axel, bit hard again, doubling one attempt and falling on the other. But he executed a gorgeous quad toe at the start of his “Hallelujah” program and an almost-as-good quad almost immediately after.
Gobs of marks for those two elements, thrusting the 27-year-old from Toronto more than six points ahead of Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada: 179.75 to 173.57 in the free skate competition, on the third and final day of the event.
That segment stake racked up 10 points for Canada and an interim score of 55-48, with women and ice dancing to come. Gabrielle Daleman hit her “Rhapsody in Blue” mark splendidly, doubled over at the waist with happiness at the routine’s end. The 20-year-old from Newmarket had no issues, skating to a third-place finish and 137.14 score behind Russia’s national titleholder Alina Zagitova, and a dazzling performance from Mirai Nagasu of the U.S., landing the first clean triple Axel by a female skater at the Olympics since Japan’s Mao Asada did it at Vancouver.
With a bulge of five points over Russia, there was no way the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” could catch up mathematically. The clinch was in even before Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir stepped on the ice to dance — and bedazzled with their “Moulin Rouge” routine, scoring 118.10 for the free dance, six points ahead of the American Shibutani siblings.
Canada. The Olympic Athletes from Russia. U.S.A.: gold, silver, bronze.
Chan missed some of the planned combos because of those missed Axels but he ad-libbed on the fly, throwing in add-on toes here and there. “I was able to move the combos around, not leave any points on the table, because I knew how close it was going to be. Just happy that I did the best I could and I left no rock unturned.’’
But, hoo boy, the heart was thumping, the nerves were sparking.
“Let me tell you, it was nerve-wracking leading into this long program,” Chan fessed up afterwards. “Not being able to rely on the quads.”
He was referring to the quad that was AWOL in his short program Friday, although he still held bronze, providing eight points toward the build-it-up scoring tally. “After a short program like that, you start to second-guess yourself. I hadn’t been that nervous in awhile.”
It’s been a rough season and a half for Chan, splitting with yet another coach, moving his training base to Vancouver, ditching the Grand Prix season halfway through because, frankly, the results were killing his self-confidence and damaging his reputation. Always, in the back of his head, was the question: Did I do the wrong thing, coming back from an 18-month furlough after Sochi?
The singles competition has yet to begin but there has been a growing consensus that, if Chan were going to grab gold, to fill the gap left yawning at his second Games in Sochi, it had to be in the team event.
He insists team gold doesn’t shine any less brilliantly.
“At the end of the day, a medal’s a medal. I’m going to hold this medal tight to me. It’s going to be as good as the individual event. I’m sorry, that’s how I’m going to enjoy and that’s for me to decide.”

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