Distance causes Chan, Laws to split

1/8/2010 - Olympic Sports

World silver medalist Patrick Chan has split with coach Don Laws on the eve of the Canadian championships and a month before the Olympics.

Chan has spent the last few weeks training in Colorado Springs, Colo. But Laws, who guided Scott Hamilton to four world titles and the 1984 Olympics gold medal, has a full-time role at a new skating facility in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"They wanted me to stay on and just join him at championships, and that's not the way coaching is done," Laws said Friday. "I have to be here and he's out there. It's 2,000 miles apart. You can hardly be coached that way."

Chan will be coached at his nationals and the Vancouver Games by choreographer Lori Nichol, who was trained by Laws when she skated, and technical adviser Christy Krall, who has worked with Chan since May.

"We looked at it as a seamless transition," said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high performance director. "He's been working with Lori forever and he's been working with Christy since May. It's not as if he's starting with new people. He's been with the three of them up to this point, and now he'll be with the two of them."

Though the announcement said Laws was taking on a new job in West Palm Beach, he's actually been in that role for four months and Chan had been training there. But Chan went to Colorado Springs last month to do some work with Krall, who uses video technology to improve the quality of jumps, particularly the quad, and decided he liked it there.

In the past, Slipchuk said Krall and Chan had worked together in Florida or Chan's hometown of Toronto.

"I just think he really liked the environment there, the setup," Slipchuk said. "And also being on the ice with a lot of peers at his competitive levels."

Several top U.S. skaters train in Colorado Springs, including Brandon Mroz, Ryan Bradley and Rachael Flatt.

Laws said Chan also wanted to train in altitude, which isn't an option in south Florida.

"I would like to sincerely thank Mr. Laws for everything he has done over the past few years with me and I wish him nothing but the best at the Palm Beach Ice Works," Chan said in Friday's release. "I respect his decision to move into his role full time and I know he will build a successful program at the new rink. He has been a real mentor to me."

No Canadian man has won the Olympic gold medal in singles, and there is great hope Chan will be the one to finally end that drought, especially with the games on home soil.

Chan's career has soared since he began working with Laws in 2007, after longtime coach Osborne Colson died. Chan, who turned 19 on Dec. 31, went from second at junior worlds to ninth at seniors to second in three seasons. He also won Four Continents last year.

With a calf injury shortening this season, however, he struggled to sixth place at Skate Canada in November, falling three times in his free skate. Not exactly the way a premier skater wants to approach the Olympics.

But Laws saw Chan over Christmas and said the skater was doing "very well." And Slipchuk was equally pleased after spending Sunday through Tuesday in Colorado Springs.

"He looks great. He looks back to the Patrick that we know," Slipchuk said. "He's had a good six weeks of training since Skate Canada, which he was missing at Skate Canada. He just didn't have the mileage that you need.

"Technically, he looks really strong," Slipchuk added.

He's made quite an impression on the Americans, as well.

"It's really pushed me to try and up my skating skills a lot because he's so brilliant at those things and it's so natural," Bradley said. "When he goes out to skate, I'm like, 'Wow, my crossovers next to your crossovers, it's not going to look so good.'

"It's so motivating. It's been awesome."

While a major change like this is sure to generate plenty of questions for Chan next week at Canadians, Slipchuk said he doesn't think it will be a distraction or hurt Chan's chances in Vancouver.

Laws said he wishes Chan nothing but the best.

"He's one of the finest men's skaters in the world," Laws said. "He's really well equipped and if he stays in shape and delivers, he's a medal contender, no question. ... I'm sorry about the situation in many ways because he has done so well. But I think it works out the best -- I hope it does -- in the long run."