- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 24, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Ah, now this is more like it.

Stuck in the doldrums with no stars and even less splash, figure skating could use a good brouhaha and Patrick Chan might have just started it. Asked about adding a quadruple jump and Brian Joubert’s criticism that not enough men are doing them, Canada’s up-and-comer took a shot at the 2007 world champion.

“Joubert, he’s always complaining about it. He never has anything else to say. Honestly,” Chan said Monday at the world figure skating championships, exasperation in his voice. “Yes, OK, our men are doing worse, according to him. All right then, if you’re going to say, ‘Let’s all do quads,’ then he better have three quads in a program and nail them good or else he has nothing to say. He just says that because he wants to have an excuse.

“It’s the total package: the spins, the footwork,” Chan added. “And obviously he needs to be focused on other things other than just the jumps. I think he can do better in his performance, his footwork, his spins. It just really frustrates me when he just constantly says that.”

Chan insisted he wasn’t trying to stir up trouble or even start a rivalry with Joubert. Good thing, because Joubert wasn’t bothered in the least.

“No, I don’t care,” the Frenchman said after his final practice late Monday night. “… I can understand that figure skating means not only quads and jumps. It’s everything _ choreography, skating, spins, footwork. But I think for the sport, for the audience, for the judges, it’s great to see a quad jump.”

The men’s competition begins Wednesday with the short program.

The quad-no quad debate has been around for as long as guys have been doing the four-revolution jump, but skating’s new judging system has given it an additional twist. Every element now has a specific value, and skaters also get a grade for how well they do each element. Do the quad, and you get huge bonus points. Do it and crash or do it and do it poorly, and you get knocked way down.

A few years ago, everyone from the best in the world to the guys in the first warmup were doing quads (Tim Goebel once had three in his long program), and they did them in both the short and long programs. But they’re far more rare these days because many skaters see it as too big of a risk. Jeremy Abbott won the U.S. title without doing one, and Chan racked up the highest score in the world this year without ever trying one.

And then there’s Jeffrey Buttle.

The Olympic bronze medalist beat out Joubert for the world title last year despite not trying a quad in either the short or long programs. Buttle, since retired, was always one of the most exquisite skaters with mesmerizing footwork, fine edge quality and a gift for artistry, and that package _ coupled with well-done triple jumps _ was enough to beat Joubert and his quads.

That didn’t sit well with the Frenchman, who said afterward, “Right after the results, I was very disappointed. And I am still disappointed because Jeffrey did the perfect competition, he made no mistakes, but he didn’t try the quad jump.”

Joubert’s criticism didn’t bother Buttle, but it rankled his fellow Canadians.

Which brings us back to Chan.

“It was a bit of a turnoff, definitely,” Chan said. “He’s kind of a sore loser, I guess. If he doesn’t win, then he always has an excuse for not winning or not skating well. Unfortunately, that’s his personality and I don’t really like it. I’m still not going to trash talk about him all the time or I’m not going to say anything bad.

“Other than this time, I guess,” Chan said, smiling sheepishly.

Joubert didn’t back off last year’s comments Monday. A mistake in the short program cost him a chance at repeating as world champion last year, so finishing behind Buttle wasn’t the issue. But he’s old school, and remembers the days when the top guys wouldn’t dare show up at worlds without a quad. Or at least without trying one.

“The competition was completely different. It was more fun, more exciting, and I think we have to change it,” he said. “Maybe not for the next season, but after the Olympics.”

Maybe, Joubert said, Chan would understand better if he tried to add the quad.

Like Buttle, Chan is a gorgeous skater. Though he’s barely 18 _ his birthday is Dec. 31 _ he has a presence on the ice that is captivating. His footwork is spellbinding, and he has a smoothness to his skating that would make any coach burst with pride. Got a pretty good resume, too, winning both of his Grand Prix events, including topping Joubert at Trophee Eric Bompard.

What he doesn’t have is a quad. At least, not yet.

“To do a program with a quad, only one, it’s completely different,” Joubert said. “You lose a lot of energy and you have to be very focused. Now with the new judging system, it’s more difficult than before because you cannot fall. It’s a big mistake. … I think what is good with me, I learned to do the quad jump with the old judging system. So I have more experience.

“For the new skaters who are coming, the young skaters, maybe it’s very difficult for them to start to do quads with this new judging system.”

Though Joubert wasn’t bothered by Chan’s comments, the topic is sure to come up again later this week. Joubert is fully recovered from the neck injury that caused pain in his lower back and forced him out of the Grand Prix final, and he’s eager to show everyone he’s the man to beat at the Vancouver Olympics.

“When you have been a world champion one time, you want to be world champion every time,” Joubert said. “My goal when I do a competition is to win this competition, and I think it’s very important before the Olympic season to show to everybody that I’m still the best skater in the world.”

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