Torontos Chan skates near-record performance to take lead at Four Continents

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VANCOUVER - Several moments before Patrick Chan's program came to the end, the noise at the Pacific Coliseum had swelled to a roar and the crowd was already on its feet.
The 18-year-old from Toronto delivered another stunning performance Thursday to take the lead at the ISU Four Continents figure skating championships, recording 88.90 points in the short program, the second highest ever since the new judging system was established in 2003.
"I took my full advantage to really play the crowd and enjoy it and give myself chills," Chan said afterward. "When I've got chills at the end of the program, I know it was a good program, and I did have chills, so that was good satisfaction."
American Evan Lysacek finished second with 81.65, while Japan's Takahiko Kozuka was third with 76.61. Vaughn Chipeur of Calgary was seventh with 68.00, while Vancouver's Jeremy Ten took ninth (66.60).
The long program is Saturday and it promises to be a thriller. Chan was thrust into the skating spotlight just last year when he upset Jeffrey Buttle to win the Canadian title in this same Vancouver arena. Buttle went on to win the world championships, then promptly retired in the fall, leaving big skates for Chan to fill.
The young skater has done an admirable job so far. His score Thursday night for her performance to Tango de los Exilados was second in points only to Evgeni Plushenko's short program at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, where the Russian skater scored 90.66 and went on to win Olympic gold.
"I don't think I'll be able to catch that, this is the max I've ever had," Chan said. "(Plushenko) had a quad, which adds a couple of points, I think until the time I do a quad in the short program - who knows if I do it, I don't know if I will, maybe - I'll hit the 90 mark."
Chan added his goal is to add a quad to his routine by the Vancouver Olympics.
The Toronto skater opened with a huge triple Axel, a jump that had been giving him trouble earlier in the season, and then skated smoothly to the end, dazzling the crowd with his agile footwork and then a combination spin to close his routine.
"He's the only skater who gets a good audience applause in his footwork, and he closes with it, so that's a highlight," said his coach Don Laws.
"That is by far the best," Chan said. "The Axel was as good as it was at nationals, I thought the performance was even better here, footwork was sharper, crisper than at nationals, everything felt great."
The night surprisingly didn't start out great. The competition was Chan's first international appearance since he wound up fifth at the Grand Prix Final in December in South Korea.
"Honestly I didn't feel the greatest going in, waiting for my turn, I didn't feel as confident as I did at nationals because this isn't nationals obviously," Chan said. "You've got the Japanese and the Chinese and the Americans, so I didn't feel great. But after landing that first Axel and even circling waiting for my music, I started being better and back under myself."

Organizations: Vancouver Olympics

Geographic location: VANCOUVER, Toronto, Japan Calgary Turin Italy South Korea

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