Canadian figure skater Chan takes to Sochi ice as Plushenko flies in

Emmeline Moore
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Canadian figure skater Patrick Chan attends a press conference in Sochi, on February 4, 2014

Olympic favourite Patrick Chan said Tuesday he was relishing renewing his rivalry with Russian superstar Yevgeny Plushenko as the Canadian found his feet on the ice of Sochi.

Three-time world champion Chan arrived last Friday and has had the ice of the Iceberg Skating Palace to himself as he fine-tunes his bid for Canada's first men's Olympic figure skating gold.

Plushenko, who only got the nod to join the Russian team two weeks ago, arrived in Sochi on Tuesday as the 2006 Olympic champion, aged 31, bids for a medal at a fourth consecutive Games.

"Plushenko's the talk of the town and it's exciting and drama-filled," said 23-year-old Chan of his rival who was picked to compete despite not being the national champion.

"I take my hat off to him. I would have been very distracted by having to deal with the controversies and everything and having to compete in my own country and do the team event and the individual event.

"I really admire his perseverence and determination to get here. I don't blame him for wanting to get here so badly because I competed at a home Games and I really wouldn't have let anyone stop me."

The road to Sochi was a thorny path for Plushenko, who had to undergo serious spinal surgery last summer in a bid to overcome a chronic back injury which had prevented him from showing his top skating in recent years.

Plushenko told journalists on his arrival that he was in good health.

"I've come to do my job," he said. "My health has been good for a long time, I've already forgotten about all the injuries. I'm looking for a good result and good health here."

Chan last competed against Plushenko at the Vancouver Olympics.

"Plushenko is Olympic champion and Olympic silver medallist and many times world champion and he's from many great generations of figure skaters with the likes of Alexei Yagudin even before I hit the senior levels," said Chan.

"He's earned his spot here because he's worked really hard. You can't teach experience. He has what a lot of other young Russian skaters haven't."

"I'm looking forward to practicisng with him and being in the same group. Things have changed a lot since we last time we competed."

Chan said that he has matured since Vancouver where he finished fifth and Plushenko was runner-up to American Evan Lysacek.

"These feel like a first Olympics. It's very different from Vancouver," said Chan.

"I feel like I'm a very different skater, a very different person. In Vancouver I went through those Games injured. I'm healthy and I feel like I've trained every aspect I could coming to these Games."

Chan added that part of the maturity was being able to focus on himself and not on his rivals including Japanese stars Yuzuru Hanyu and Daisuke Takahashi.

"Many people talk about Yuzuru and me because we've been 1st-2nd, 1st-2nd all season," said Chan, who finished second to the Japanese skater at the Grand Prix final.

"The key part is focusing on myself. That's what I've been working on last two three weeks. Not busying myself thinking whether I was training as well as the others or are my quads better than Yuzuru's or Daisuke's or whoever.

"It's like the constant battle between positive and negative thoughts because of the Grand Prix final.

"If I think about others it will just screw up the plan and that's when I start making mistakes."

Chan could open his Olympic campaign as early as Thursday if he competes in the men's short programme for the team event in which Canada, who will finalise their team on Wednesday, are favourites.

"It's a great chance to break the ice for the team, not only the figure skating team but the whole Canadian Olympic team," said the skater from Toronto.

"To get the whole team going and motivated and not to have to have to carry the weight of getting a medal for Canada.

"That I don't have to carry it all by myself right off the bat, it's spread among all the skaters. I'm very fortunate to have such a strong team to rely on."