LONDON, Canada — It had been a blue funk kind of season for Patrick Chan.
Sure, the judges remained enamored of his prodigious talent. But it had reached the point that they simply overlooked his frequent falls and propped him up to victory with the component — or artistry — scores.
The Canadian was third at the Grand Prix Final and second at Skate Canada, of all places. As the World Championships neared, Chan knew something had to change if he were to win a third straight title.
"I was very uneasy, no confidence, very low self-esteem — which is really odd for a two-time world champion," Chan told a group of reporters after practice this week. "There was something wrong, something off the ice, just not being happy where I am. I was definitely panicking a little bit."
It turned out a change in training scenery, from Colorado Springs to Detroit three weeks ago, was the answer because the Chan who skated Wednesday night was everything he could be — and more.
The subtlety and power, the grace and athleticism of his performance to Rachmaninoff's "Elegie in E-Flat Minor" were all so glorious he deserved the gushing on the scoreboard — a record short program score of 98.37, bettering the 95.32 Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu received earlier this season.
Chan hit the jumps — quad toe-triple toe, triple axel, triple lutz — but his real brilliance came during a sublime footwork sequence that echoed a pianissimo section of the music.
"I worked very hard for the past three weeks, which really paid off," Chan said. "Setting a new world record is just the icing on the cake."
He goes into Friday's free skate final with nearly a seven-point lead over the most surprising skater, Kazakhstan's Denis Ten, who bettered his previous personal best by more than 13 points with 91.56. Kevin Reynolds of Canada is third at 85.16, having landed two quads in the short program.
The U.S. chances of getting a third Olympic spot all but vanished. World meet rookie Max Aaron, the reigning U.S. champion, was a respectable eighth, but Ross Miner fell on his opening jump and wound up 14th. Their finishes must add up to 13 or less for the third spot.
Twenty men had skated before Aaron landed the first quadruple jump, and then there were nine more credited — if not perfectly clean — quads.