Skaters eager to begin nationals

To be the best, it helps to learn from the best.

That's the mindset of Canadian figure skating phenom Patrick Chan as he looks to rebound from what he considers a rough start to the 2012-13 season.

After a disappointing third place finish at the International Skating Union Grand Prix Final last month in Sochi, Russia— the host city for the 2014 Winter Olympics — Chan took the opportunity to learn from former world champions Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko and Jeffrey Buttle as he toured four Ontario cities with them afterwards.

Chan, 22, has learned a great deal from Browning in particular and is hoping to apply his newfound knowledge when he competes in the Canadian championships that begin Sunday at the Hershey Centre.

"Kurt's always a blast to be with because he's not only my friend, but my choreographer,"

said Chan, who has won back-to-back world championships and five straight national titles since 2008.

"He's very professional and can very easily compartmentalize himself. One minute, he can be a friend and another minute he can be a competitor. He's a really great guy and he knows what he's doing."

The nationals will serve as a precursor to the world championships in London, Ont. in March. In addition to Browning's guidance, Chan said Stojko taught him to not be so hard on himself and realize when the body needs rest.

As eager as he is to compete at the worlds and the Olympics, Chan is really looking forward to competing for his sixth straight Canadian crown.

"It never ceases to build excitement inside of me and never stops motivating to compete at my best," he said.

Chan will compete against 18 other skaters, including 2012 silver medalist Kevin Reynolds, bronze medalist Jeremy Ten and 16-year-old Mitchell Gordon, who is competing in his first senior nationals after winning last year's Canadian junior title, as well as the novice crown in 2011.

Meanwhile, defending Canadian and world ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will also be at the Hershey Centre after a disappointing finish at the Grand Prix Final in Russia.

They finished second behind Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

Afterwards, they took some time to relax over the holidays and expect to go into nationals with fresh minds.

"We took about five days off over Christmas, which I think is unheard of in the skating world, at least in our competitive history," Virtue said. "For us to get those five days to let our bodies recover and start the new year fresh and rejuvenated really makes a difference for us."

"Sometimes, going into the rink is like Groundhog Day where you're doing the same thing over and over again, but the break really helps," said Moir.

Their closest competitors, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, won't be at nationals because Weaver suffered an ankle injury last month.

However, duos such as 2012 bronze medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, as well as junior champions AndrŽanne Poulin and Marc-AndrŽ Servant, are among nine pairs looking to stand on top of the podium.

Megan Duhamel and Eric Radford won their first pairs title last year while Amelie Lacoste won her first women's championship last year. They're each going into this year's nationals with a lot of confidence.

The senior championships will run from Jan. 18-20 while some of Canada's future stars will be featured in the novice and junior events running from Sunday to Thursday.

Mississauga's Denis Margalik will compete in the junior men's category while fellow Mississaugans Liam Mahood and Mitchell Brennan will go for gold in the novice men's division.

For a complete schedule and ticket information, visit skatecanada.ca