It took from about 4:30pm until about 2:30am by car to get from Aston, PA back to my house in Toronto. Lots of coffee, lots of laughs and some great skating conversation made the trip fun on the way back fro the Liberty competition.

The purpose of the trip was to try and get a head start on the season, try and see how the changes have played out in the programs and to also have the chance to talk to some people about my book which comes out in about six weeks, Taking the Ice. I will tell you more about the book later.

What kept us at the rink yesterday was the senior men’s free skate event which included Canadian men’s champion and two-time world silver medallist Patrick Chan.

I also wanted to get a second look at American Keegan Messing from Alaska who had really impressed me in the short program from the day before.

I can overlook weaknesses in a skater at this point in the season if there is something that captures my attention. It is true that Keegan is a bit wild but his speed, power and jumping ability alone make him a skater to watch. Although not originally named to Junior Worlds in 2010, he nevertheless ended up there and finished in 4th place. I can definitely see that he is one to keep your eye on.

As the final group of skaters took the ice, people filtered in to the rink to settle into a spot to be able to watch Patrick Chan’s free program; the second last skater in the flight.

His music is the same from this past season – The Phantom of The Opera – but the program has been totally revamped. After a superb quad toe in the short, he attempted another one as his first element in the free. He fell on the landing edge but….and this is a significant but…the jump was fully rotated and the ease with which he went into it makes me think that he is comfortable with this new addition. The other new addition was a solid triple Axel/triple toe combination -his first in competition He fell on the second triple Axel so ended up with 2 points in deductions from the totall overall score.

The crowd was very appreciative. It doesn’t mean that there weren’s some people who thought that if Patrick was going to go to the trouble of re-doing his Phantom free program then why not go with new music as well. I am speculating when I say that with the challenges that Patrick had in the Olympic season, perhaps he never got to totally explore the Phantom character.

I spoke to (friends and) announcers Robin and Carol and it was Robin who said: “Patrick is one of the few skaters that I watch where I don’t care if he jumps or not, his expression is that good.”

What struck me yesterday was if you watched just his skating, he skates faster and with more power than he ever has. He seems to have come of age over the past few months and his new found maturity has helped him develop a new found and powerful presence and persona that positively fills the rink. All that even before you realize just how fast he is going.

Patrick took the free program with Keegan in second place.

Just another one of the highlights for me from the Liberty competition. I am going back next year!

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