Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chan puts the generation gap on ice

Patrick Chan and Don Jackson's figure skating eras are separated by nearly 50 years, but you wouldn't have known that on the ice yesterday.

Chan, world championship silver medallist and a top contender for the 2010 Winter Olympics, put on a clinic for the Forest Hill Figure Skating Club with Jackson, world champion in 1962 and the first man to land a triple Lutz in competition.

The 18-year-old Chan and the 69-year-old Jackson were a pair of skating Pied Pipers in the frosty arena, as youngsters ranging from 5 to 19 followed their every word and move, as did a group of instructors. Talk about rapt attention.

"Well, I think if I was a young kid and Patrick Chan came to do a seminar for me, I'd be eating up everything, too," said Jackson.

Elaine Hume, an instructor at the club for 25 years who knows Chan through his late coach Osborne Colson, put things in perspective.

"This is a unique situation where the past meets the present," said Hume. "These kids have a pretty good idea they (Jackson and Chan) are part of figure skating history. They know this is something pretty special."

Chan and Jackson have some history, too. Turns out that when Chan was just 8 and living in Ottawa, he was in Jackson's learn-to-skate class at the Minto Club. But their closest connection is through Colson, who was Jackson's best friend and trained the 1960 Olympic bronze medallist as a pro.

Jackson recalls when he first heard about Colson's prize protegé.

"He said, `I've got this young boy with me, he's an excellent little skater but he's got something special.' It was Patrick Chan he was talking about."

That something special was on display yesterday, as Chan charmed everyone. He also left behind more than memories. Chan donated his gold medal and award from his first-ever Grand Prix victory at the Trophée Eric Bompard in Paris in 2007 to the club's trophy case.

"It's sort of to inspire you guys," he told the skaters, later adding: "I owe you guys more than you owe me."

Chan said it was important for him to connect with the skaters.

"This is going back to the roots," he said. "These are the kids that are the future of Canada's skating. They're the ones who are going to be looking up to me – hopefully – when they get up to a higher level if they do, just like I looked up to Elvis (Stojko) or Kurt (Browning)."

Jackson reminisced with Chan about Colson and showed him the ins and outs of a toe wally, a move not used much today but one Chan may employ in a show program.

"He gives me a lot of tips," said Chan. "Always, always so nice and always compliments me. If I ever feel down, I'll probably give him a call to motivate me back up."

Like most, Chan marvels at the longevity of Jackson, who still coaches at the Minto Club and skates in shows.

"I think I'd be in sunny Florida enjoying my retirement," said Chan. "But that's what he loves."

Jackson, for his part, is impressed with Chan's sense of joy on the ice.

"He loves what he's doing. That's why he's there. And he passed that on to the skaters. And I hope I do the same thing."

No worries on that front.

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