Reported Feb. 18, 2010 and published the next morning:
VANCOUVER — The math was pretty easy to do.
Patrick Chan finished second to Evan Lysacek of the United States at last year's world championships in Los Angeles -and since then, Evgeni Plushenko and Stephane Lambiel have come out of retirement and Daisuke Takahashi has returned from injury. All three can do the Quad.
Two plus three equals ...
Fifth. The 19-year-old Chan, unable to raise his game technically and relying on perfection in everything he had in his arsenal, fell short of flawless and two positions short of a medal -but if his Canadian devotees had been hoping against hope for the miracle finish -they got it ... just not from Chan.
The miracle was Lysacek, the one skater of them all who had a real chance to win without the four-rotation jump that has defined men's skating for two decades -and did it, despite a quad-triple combination from Plushenko, who skated last and came up a mere 1.31 points shy of Lysacek's winning 257.67 total.
Chan, relegated to the second-last flight by his seventh-place finish in Tuesday's short program, could only stand in his running shoes and watch the medal slip away. When the final flight of six skaters took the ice, Chan was in first place. He knew it wouldn't last.
"I might not have looked like the happiest person when I came off. At the Olympics, where you've seen all these amazing gold medals, it's easy to think: 'I want to give them the perfect program.' It didn't happen," said Chan.
"Before the marks came up, I felt I'd let the audience down, because I didn't give the great performance they would have enjoyed, but in the end, they still loved me, and I love Vancouver for that, and I'll always remember Vancouver for that. Kind of makes me realize how proud I am to be Canadian."
There wasn't anybody in the skating world who couldn't have told you what had to happen for Chan to finish on the podium at the 2010 Olympics. At age 19. In his home country. He had to be fear-proof, immune to the wall of sound that hit him in the solar plexus each time his name was announced over the speaker system, impervious to the nerves that seem to go directly to the knees and create fatal tension in the legs.
"It was unbelievable. It felt like tingling going from the tips of my fingers right up to my body -that's the best way I can describe it," said Chan, of the deafening roar before he took his pose at centre ice, waiting for his music to begin.
"That's why you go to the Olympics, and that's why people come back, like Evgeni, to experience that. I need to compete more, be in these moments more, enjoying those moments instead of fearing them."
Chan knew he was skating on the finest of knife-edges here. Without the big tricks, he had to be perfect at everything else, and he was not. He had to pass four skaters to get to the podium, and it was a lot to ask of his presentation marks -even for a program as dazzling as his Phantom of the Opera free skate -to carry him after he stepped out of a triple Lutz and fell on a triple Axel.
The boy can skate but admitted Thursday night that "the jumps aren't my favourite -I like all the skating that comes between them" -and somewhere in that sentiment is the key to where he goes from here. He'd better learn to love the jumps. Or else execute them all flawlessly and reliably, as Lysacek has done.
"I was too young to go to Torino, I wish I'd had one Olympics under my belt when I came here," said Chan. "This was kind of an overwhelming first Olympics, but in the end, that's why I'm looking forward to Sochi (in 2014). All I have to work on is my head and how I approach the program mentally. I think I've narrowed it down to just one thing, which is probably the mind."
It was a considerable shock to see Plushenko run through most of his material and still lose. The 27-year-old Russian vamped, wiggled, emoted and otherwise did everything he could to catch the eyes of the judges and the TV cameras -shades of one of his coach Alexei Mishin's other Olympic champions, 1994's Alexei Urmanov. But he was fighting all the jumps ever so slightly, barely hanging on to a few of them, and in a world where grade-of-execution is attached to each element, the failure to collect those additional style points added up.
There were 15 quads planned in the men's long programs, and all but a couple of them were attempted -but only a handful landed. Chan has yet to get over that hurdle in his mind.
"He can do the quad, he just doesn't have enough miles on it yet," said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high performance director, "and you look at someone like Plushenko -he's been landing quads since the late 1990s. That's a ton of mileage.
"Patrick's 19, and he's going to learn from this. Think about it, he's gone from ninth in the worlds two years ago to second last year to being considered a gold medal contender. But until you see all these guys in one place, it's hard to understand how deep this field is, and how good they all are -and Patrick's right there, too."
He could have been. But everything would have had to go right. A Canadian has never won the men's gold medal and a few skaters who had higher-powered technical stuff than Chan does have tried -Brian Orser, Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko, to name three.
So the streak will carry on, and so will Patrick Chan's learning curve.
But even for a 19-year-old, four years is a long way away.