Brian Orser's skaters set to challenge Patrick Chan
Former world-champion-turned-coach Brian Orser (right) talks to Spanish figure skater Javier Fernandez during practice for the World Figure Skating Championships at Budwesier Gardens in London, Ont., March 11, 2013. (CRAIG GLOVER/QMI Agency)
The lineage of Canada's figure skating kings will take a rather interesting twist this week.
Patrick Chan will skate at the worlds in London with sage advice offered by Elvis Stojko earlier this year rattling around in the back of his head.
Kurt Browning will be in the CBC broadcast perch breaking down his every move starting Wednesday.
He's looking after two of the guys who have the best shots at taking down the two-time world champion Chan. He coaches European champion Javier Fernandez of Spain and Japanese teen sensation Yuzuru Hanyu at Toronto's Cricket Club.
"They can challenge him (Chan), for sure," the Canadian skating legend said Monday after Fernandez's opening practice at Budweiser Gardens. "It is kind of neat. This is what I do so it's not a matter of feeling any guilt for not doing it for a Canadian. I remember in 1988, a Canadian choreographer helped (Brian) Boitano so we're kind of even now."
He laughed at the thought.
"It's your business," Orser said. "I do it because I love skating and I love teaching and when I get the opportunity to work with great talent like this, it's a coach's dream come true to help guide them. It's pretty cool. I don't care what country you're from."
Orser's already a giant in Canada and he's growing the sport in places that have not yet received the hype.
When Fernandez made history by winning Europeans in January, Orser sensed immediately his skater's higher responsibility.
"The second he won, I said to his team leader we should get his flights changed and get him back to Madrid right away and have two days of media because they deserve to have him come back and get to know him," Orser said.
"This would be good for him, the sport, figure skating in Spain, and Spain (in general) because they need a boost from their economic situation there."
Figure skating, Fernandez admits, is not a huge deal yet in his home country. He will have to win a lot of medals to get it to such heights.
But he was treated like royalty on that trip and received the ultimate perk for a Spaniard boy -- a primo spot to watch a Real Madrid and Barcelona soccer game.
"He sat in the owners' box, they interviewed him, he went to centre field and all the players gave him a jersey, signed with all their names on it," Orser said. "It was like a dream come true for him (and) he kind of likes that (attention).
Fernandez has always answered the bell in Orser's home and native land. He won a historic first Grand Prix medal for his country at Skate Canada in Mississauga, Ont., a couple of years back and beat Chan at the event in Windsor last fall.
He understands those accomplishments resonate a little more to Canadians -- because of his coach -- just like Orser's old student, Olympic champion Yuna Kim, did.
"He was a big champion," Fernandez said. "It's normal the people here in Canada talk to him like they do and he is nice to everyone. It's kind of like you expect it. He's still Brian Orser. It doesn't matter how many years have past. But for me, he's still my coach. We just work together and after that, we have whatever we have going on in our lives."
Now, he shares Orser's expertise during training with Hanyu.
So far, so good," Orser said. "They train well together, they support each other. When you have a teammate that's going through the same stress, it takes away some of the pressure. You're not the only one in this boat. At least they don't have meltdowns the same days. Some days, he (Fernandez) will have a meltdown and Yuzuru will help him through it, and vice versa.
"It's when everyone melts on the same day, it's like, 'Oh, God' . . . It's hard. These guys are a real treat to work with."
It would be something if one of his skaters did something really special this week.
This year, after all, is the 25th anniversary of the famous Battle of the Brians at the Calgary Olympics. Orser recently received a well-intentioned invitation to go down to Florida and re-visit the bitter moment in which he finished in second to his American rival Boitano.
"I didn't hear anything from Boitano but I got invited . . . come help celebrate Brian's 25th anniversary of his gold medal win -- I might give that a miss," Orser said with a big laugh. "I thought, 'Are you serious? Are you really sending me an invitation?' "
He's not the party pooper type.
But this week, he could assist in raining on one king's parade.