Olympics: Chan - a skater forged by his Chinese heritage

SOCHI, Russia - Three-time world champion Patrick Chan will bid to become the first Canadian man to stand on top of the men's figure skating podium in Sochi.

But the son of Chinese emigrants who settled in Canada, Chan who grew up in Toronto speaking French, Cantonese and English admits that he is a skater whose iron will has been forged by his Asian heritage.

His mother, Karen, emigrated from Hong Kong to Canada at the age of 21 to study. His father, Lewis, now a lawyer in Toronto, arrived from Hong Kong aged 5 and grew up in Montreal.

"Chinese culture is very different, it's unique, you work incessantly," Chan said in an interview with AFP.

"It's a quality that we all have but what's not good is that Chinese parents are very strict above all with school.

"Luckily both my parents adore sport, they weren't really strict with my results (at school). I know Chinese parents who say 'if you don't get an 'A' you won't be allowed to skate'. But for me sport takes priority over school.

"My parents knew how to balance the Chinese cultural influence and North American."

Since finishing just fifth at his home Olympics in Vancouver, Chan, who is coached by Kathy Johnson in Detroit, has gone on to win the last three world titles, and holds the world record overall and free skate scores.

And nothing would please him more than to become the first Canadian to stand on top of the men's podium in the Iceberg Skating Palace on February 14. The 23-year-old could also become the first skater to win two gold at the same Olympics with the new team competition - men, women, pairs and ice dance - being decided five days earlier.

"It would be so cool to be part of Canadian history, it would be such a big honour. It's one of the reasons why I skate and continue to work hard, to do something different from others and to leave a mark on figure skating in Canada.

"I can do it, I'm capable, I'm confident. I have to remain calm and not to think too much about it."

His maturity is what will make the difference this time he believes. "It's the difference between Vancouver and Sochi. At Vancouver I was 19 years and I was very dependent on others," he explained. "At Sochi I know myself better, I know my body, I know when I have to rest or not and that's going to help me.

"My final exploit is the Olympic Games. It's the only thing left for me to win. I've changed a lot these last three, four years. After each world championship there was always something to improve, I wasn't satisfied with the result. And happily this season has gone exactly as needed."

Chan believes that the competition in Sochi will be less controversial than in Vancouver where American Evan Lysacek took gold ahead of Russian Yevgeny Plushenko without attempting a quad.

"It will be a lot less controversial, dramatic than in Vancouver. Plushenko was really angry. We're going to see less of that in Sochi because it's now four seasons that a lot of skaters have been doing the quads.

"Everyone knows that it's very difficult to be at the highest level without a quad, honestly it's impossible. It's a vital element to be in the final group at the Olympic Games, not just to be on the podium."

In Sochi, he will be up against 31-year-old Plushenko again along with Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, 19, who beat him in the Grand Prix final in December with a world record score in the short programme.

"The Japanese are among my biggest rivals but last year I was sure they would be on the podium with me at worlds and it was Denis (Ten) and Javier (Fernandez). So you never know what's going to happen," he said.

But Chan believes it will be a big challenge for 2006 Turin winner Plushenko, a two-time Games silver medallist, to win a medal at his fourth Olympics.

"It's a very different field. But he did it for Vancouver before. I'll tip my hat off to him if he can get to Sochi healthy and win," said Chan.

"He's always been the talk of the town. He's going to bring even more excitement to the Game."