Patrick Chan should have been in Colorado Springs, polishing up his quads for the upcoming world figure skating championships in Moscow.
But he made a brief trip home to Toronto to skate in a little carnival skating show on the weekend at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ont., honouring a commitment he had made before the world championships were postponed a month.
Like many other skaters, Chan was left in limbo when an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster scuttled the world championships in Tokyo, which were to have been taken place March 21 to 27. The event will now be held in Moscow from April 25 to May 1.
But the skating show in Oshawa meant something to Chan than getting an appearance fee. He'd been invited by a long-time friend, 1962 world champion Donald Jackson, who spends his retirement by working a couple of days a week teaching young skaters at his home club.
Jackson had envisaged a skating show - that was to have taken place a week after the world championships in Tokyo - offering up Chan's first appearance after the event. Perhaps he would be returning as the world champion. And if he had won the gold medal in Tokyo, the show would have offered up Canada's first men's world champion performing alongside its latest.
Jackson was to have skated in the show, too, on his 71st birthday, intrepidly landing double Salchows and double toe loops.
Jackson was a pioneer in men's skating, landing the first triple Lutz in competition at the 1962 world championships in Prague. His performance at that event 49 years ago was called the greatest of all time. He'd never landed a triple Lutz in competition before and he didn't land another one after. He attempted it, even though he couldn't afford to make a mistake to win. He earned a record seven perfect marks of 6.0 (under the old marking system.)
"It was a bit tough," Chan said. "I didn't know if I was going to be able to make it initially….But now that [the world championship]is at the end of April, I wanted to be sure that I could do this for Don."
Chan calls Jackson an old family friend. One of Jackson's mentors, particularly when he was a pro skater, was Toronto coach Osborne Colson, who was Chan's formative coach. "I have this young Asian boy that I think is special," Colson told Jackson before Chan had even hit his teenaged years.
But before Chan ever met Colson, he had met Jackson. Chan, born in Ottawa, signed up for some learn-to-skate classes (called CanSkate) at the Minto Skating Club, where Jackson was director of skating for many years. Jackson taught Chan how to do cross-overs when he was only five years old.
"I have a lot of good memories of Don," Chan said. "He's always a joy to be with, because every time I see him, he always has a smile on his face. So does his wife [Barb] and they're really good people who really love skating. I really wanted to do this."
Chan flew into Toronto on Friday and returned to his training base in Colorado Springs on Sunday.
"He's a class act," Jackson said, of Chan, who decided to forfeit his appearance fee, donate half of it to a club scholarship in Colson's name and the rest to a Japanese disaster relief fund through the Canadian Red Cross. On Saturday night in Oshawa, Chan used the event as a training exercise, performing his short program to Take Five.
"The Chans are fine people and they have really come through," said Barb Jackson. "Don and the Chans are all part of the "Ozzie" [Colson]family and there is a long-time bond there."
Jackson watched Chan deliver a record-breaking performance at the Canadian figure skating championships in January. In his free-skate he landed two quads and earned a score of 285.85, by far a world best.
"I think if he skated like that at worlds, I don't know who can beat him," Jackson said. Jackson said Chan embodies what skating should be. "He's all about edges and flow and freedom of movement,' Jackson said. "He's got the talent and discipline.
"On his bad days, he's good and on his good days, he's outstanding."
"It's sad that Oz (Colson) isn't here to see that."