Figure skater Patrick Chan skates at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

How Patrick Chan became an Olympic champion and gold-medal dad

Patrick Chan is widely regarded as one of the greatest male figure skaters of all time. He’s a national champion, a world champion, an Olympic gold medallist, a Team Canada ambassador and now, a new dad. Here’s a look back on Chan’s journey as an elite athlete, plus tips for parents and kids who want to follow in his footsteps.

Early days on the ice

Growing up as part of an active family in Ottawa, Chan had an early introduction to sports. “In the summer, my parents were all about tennis and in the winter, it was all about skiing,” the 31-year-old recalls. Chan was hitting the slopes with his parents by age three, his family eagerly driving out to Mont Tremblant almost every weekend during the ski season. 

After moving to Toronto during primary school, Chan spent less time skiing and more time playing hockey. His mother enrolled him in a local CanSkate program at the recommendation of a respected international coach—a move that would officially introduce him to figure skating. Soon, the ice was his second home. 

“Both of my parents were so involved and present in my activities and sports,” Chan says, remembering all of the time his mother spent driving him to skating practice, accompanying him to competitions, and supporting his training efforts. As Chan moved up in the competitive ranks, his mom was always at his side.

The road to the Olympics: One step at a time

Despite his passion for figure skating and his parents’ dedication, Chan didn’t grow up with big Olympic dreams. In fact, as a young figure skater, he rarely looked more than one step ahead. “In CanSkate, I wanted to get the next badge,” he says. “There are so many little steps, and that’s what I always focused on. I remember thinking I wanted to land that next axel or achieve little goals I’d set for myself. The Olympics were never a subject of conversation around the dinner table.” 

That said, by the time Chan was 13 or 14, the idea had started to form. “At some point, I started to think maybe I was good enough [for the Olympics]. But it was very much in incremental steps.”

Long before he imagined himself on Olympic ice, Chan remembers watching the Games as a child and feeling inspired by the athletes. “I remember the ‘98 Olympics in Nagano. It’s kind of burned in my mind, watching Elvis Stojko.” Chan also looked up to Russian skaters like Alexei Yagudi and Evgeni Plushenko, plus Canadian icon Kurt Browning.

Chan would soon join their ranks as one of the greats, inspiring a new generation of kids across Canada. He won Olympic gold in South Korea in 2018, took home two silver medals at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, and placed 5th at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 when he was still a teenager. Now retired from competition, Chan is enjoying a new chapter of life in British Columbia.

From skate life to dad life to multisport life

Patrick Chan smiles while holding his son, Olivier.
Photo: @pchan31

Chan and his wife, fellow figure skater Elizabeth Putnam, welcomed their first child in the fall of 2021. Olivier (pronounced “Oliver”) isn’t even crawling yet, but Chan looks forward to sharing his love of sports with his son in the years to come. 

“We live across the street from a park [in Vancouver] and I can picture kicking a soccer ball around for him,” he says. “I hope Elizabeth and I can reflect on our past experiences to point us in the right direction and nurture him to be the best of whatever he wants to be.”

Life has changed, but life is good. “We love exploring this province and taking road trips,” he says, noting that things are “a bit different now!” with a new baby. “We’d go to so many different hiking trails and take the dog to a beach that’s just 10 minutes away. We took a van trip last summer all the way to Banff and then back to Vancouver, camping. We love surfing so my wife and I go to Tofino a lot—it feels like an escape.”

And while figure skating remains an important part of his life, Chan makes time for other sports. “I play a lot of hockey now. I love going backcountry skiing and did my avalanche course last year. Looking around and not seeing another soul—it’s so peaceful.” (That sounds like new parent goals to us!)

Patrick Chan’s tips for parents and aspiring athletes

While baby Olivier isn’t hitting the ice quite yet, Chan has plenty of experience working with young skaters and offers these great tips for parents.

  • Be up for a challenge: Chan doesn’t think kids should settle on one activity too early—and even if they fall in love with a sport, they should challenge themselves by participating in others (even just for fun). “It forces your body and your brain to learn different movement pathways,” he explains. “I count my blessings that my parents put me in many sports. It was so nourishing and very beneficial for my development.”
  • Want to be a better athlete? Try ballet: “Get into ballet, and maybe gymnastics as well for flexibility and strength,” Chan says. “You can’t tell a nine-year-old to get in the gym and lift weights but gymnastics is a non-invasive way to build strength.” 
  • Put effort into nailing the basics: If you’re in figure skating or hockey, excellent skating skills are a must—so, it’s worth the time to practice and really hone your technique. “The essence of figure skating is having a good foundation—understanding your edges, maintaining good body control and good balance. Those are skills that will follow you to your sixties! Skating skills stick with you much longer than jumps do.”
  • Eat the rainbow: Chan encourages families to make proper nutrition a priority, even if you’re eating in the car between school and practice. “Be aware of the fuel you’re giving your kids. How is their training or practice going? Food can affect your performance. Without proper nutrition, they may feel foggy or struggle to focus.”

If you’re inspired, but could use some help figuring out ways to be active each day, simply turn to this perfect printable: A recipe for an active day at home. You’ll find quick, simple ideas that require little or no equipment that will inspire you to get moving each and every day.

Photo credit: The Canadian Press/HO – COC – Jason Ransom

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One response to “How Patrick Chan became an Olympic champion and gold-medal dad

  1. Great timely story and a great example of life beyond the Olympics. It all starts with building healthy habits, which support us through out our lives.

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