Don’t for a second think Patrick Chan doesn’t love to win. It’s just that, in addition to beating the competition, Chan craves making a connection with the audience he’s skating for. The 20-year-old got to experience the best of both worlds in 2011, winning his fourth Canadian title before his performance for the ages at the World Championships in Russia, where he set new benchmarks in the short program (93.02) and free skate (187.96), and with his combined score of 280.98 points. All this came on the heels of contemplating whether he even wanted to continue skating after a disappointing fifth-place finish at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Good thing he didn’t quit. And now, thanks to his record-setting year, he can add Sportsnet’s Canadian Athlete of the Year to his list of titles in 2011. Chan, who trains in Colorado Springs, Colo., shared his thoughts on the year, and what’s ahead, with senior writer Ryan Dixon.
SN: What did it mean to not just win the worlds, but to do it with such authority?
PC: It’s had an impact beyond skating. When you win the world championship in any sport, you’re the champion in that sport, specifically. But setting the records kind of brought me outside the skating world; I set a record people from all over the world can recognize. For me, that was the coolest part. As a kid, always reading the Guinness Book of World Records, it’s always the fanciest book you can find in the library. It’s hard to not be happy about it and more excited than [just] winning the world championships.
SN: You really cherish the non-jumping elements of skating. Does that mean you have a love/hate relationship with the quad?
PC: It’s all about balance. I wouldn’t have had the success I’ve had if I hadn’t done the quads—it’s a very important part of what I do. But then again, you have tons of people doing quads now; the top five skaters in most international competitions do them. What I’m trying to show the audience is that I can still keep the way I skate naturally, even though I’ve added that jump. A lot of times you’ll see a skater add a quad and the whole program changes—it’s like everything is focused on that jump. They make everything really simple, they just do simple crossovers and there’s not much to it.
SN: Do you think about achieving a sustained period of excellence?
PC: I’m working toward that. It’s nice to say, “It’s all about the performance,” but people like to see you win. Canadians like to see that, and they can talk about somebody they’re proud of. I want to change the sport and I think I can do that and bring it to another level and make our generation stand out by repeating—a legacy—winning several world championships leading up to the  Olympics.
SN: Were you really ready to stop skating after Vancouver?
PC: It was very much in the equation. I was done the first week, so I had the second week with total freedom to do whatever I wanted. Unfortunately, I didn’t even take advantage and watch my fellow teammates, whether it was in skating, in luge or skiing, it didn’t matter; I didn’t watch because I was so upset. It was so bad that I didn’t really want to see any kind of success because I knew I could have been in that spot. The right people just came to me and told me there’s so much more I can create. Looking back at the Olympics, I was definitely not the skater I am now.
I can’t even believe I even thought about quitting, but that’s completely normal. You have to go through that and I’m sure I’m going to go through that again sometime soon. It’s a very difficult decision, but that’s what makes life so exciting and makes winning worlds or my fourth national title so special.