“He does have a bit of a lack of filter,” said William Thompson, chief executive officer for Skate Canada. “We all know that. That is part of his charm, but sometimes his mouth gets a little bit ahead of his thoughts.”In English, Mr. Chan tends to talk in a stream-of-consciousness fashion and the words sometimes tumble out like freshets of water, uninhibited. After all, English is not his first language. It is his third.
At home, his father speaks French to him; his mother Cantonese. They thought it would be a good idea for their son to speak several languages, and they left it up to him to pick up English in his daily life. From the beginning, he attended a French school.
“French is a little easier for me,” he said. “I'm quite direct and to the point. With English, I sometimes add more drama to it.”Instead of having one coach who could do every task, they now have Team Chan, as they call it, which consists of Peter Davis, the former sports science director for the U.S. Olympic Committee, who oversees Mr. Chan's program; Lori Nichol, a world-renowned choreographer; Kathy Johnson, a movement and balance coach; Andy O'Brien, a strength, fitness and nutrition coach who lives in Calgary; heralded physiotherapist Mark Lindsay, and Eddie Shipstead, who used special harnesses hanging from the ceiling to help Mr. Chan learn how to do quads without getting hurt.
“There is no snowflake unturned, just to make sure we're doing the right thing for him because he wants to be so good,” Ms. Krall said. “It's a lot of expense, but that's what it takes to be a thoroughbred.”However, Mr. Thompson, the Skate Canada official, said Mr. Chan does receive “significant support” from the Canada's Own the Podium program, which targets Olympic medal prospects. The money from that can be used to pay coaching, choreography, fitness training or any off-ice activity.
Skate Canada pays the costs of coaches to competitions, Mr. Thompson says, adding that Mr. Chan earns some prize money and even has a private sponsorship that Skate Canada arranged. He has one anonymous sponsor, an individual who gives “not a ton of money, but it's definitely not insignificant.”
Mr. Chan also has a long-standing corporate deal with McDonald's restaurants. But it has been extremely difficult to find sponsors, his father says. Lewis Chan admits there is “a fair gap” between his son's expenses and the financial support they receive from associations and the government.
The family has had to resort to fundraising dinners to bridge that gap. In September, a crowd of 400 attended a “sumptuous Chinese buffet” at $130 a ticket. The event offered sponsorship packages and program advertising opportunities.
“The China [support] comment was unfortunate,” said Michael Alexander, a Toronto lawyer who supports Mr. Chan and attended the fundraiser. “But Patrick is an elite athlete. He's not a political scientist.”
He added that the majority of the people who went to the banquet were from the Chinese-Canadian community. “If it weren't for the concerted effort of Chinese Canadians for Patrick, he wouldn't be able to train,” Mr. Alexander said.In Toronto, the Chans live in a 900-square-foot condo, and when their son comes home, he does not have his own bedroom. He sleeps in the den. The condo in Colorado Springs – where the real-estate market is depressed – is slightly larger. There, Mr. Chan has his own bedroom – and bathroom. He does not have a television. He does not watch one. He's too busy training.