On the move and in the moment

Sale, Pelletier savor Hall of Fame tribute

Jamie Salé and David Pelletier were part of NBC's coverage at the 2008 U.S. Championships.
Jamie Salé and David Pelletier were part of NBC's coverage at the 2008 U.S. Championships. (Getty Images)


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By Laurie Nealin, special to
(01/29/2008) - Ever since Jamie Salé and David Pelletier welcomed son Jesse into the world late last September, Canada's celebrated figure skating pair has kept a schedule that would exhaust most new parents.

With Stars on Ice tours in the United States and Canada on the horizon, it appears that pace won't let up anytime soon. The 2002 Olympic champions launch their 20-show, U.S. tour in Bakersfield, Calif., in mid-February and finish five weeks later in Columbus, Ohio. Jesse will travel with his parents on tour, with Salé's mother helping to take care of him the first half, then Pelletier's doing the same the second half. Canada's 12-city Stars on Ice tour follows, beginning in mid-April.

Last week, Salé and Pelletier were in Saint Paul, Minn., working as roving reporters and analysts for NBC's coverage of the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. They described the U.S. pairs as "diamonds in the rough... that just need time" to refine their performances. The couple was particularly impressed by the quality of lifts -- especially the women's air positions -- and the triple twists executed in the short programs.

That nationals assignment came on the heels of the previous week's Canadian championships in Vancouver, where they did commentary for CBC television, performed in the Parade of Champions and savored their induction into Skate Canada's Hall of Fame.

"It seemed like a good idea three weeks ago. Not so much now," Pelletier chuckled, as he considered their imminent guest appearance in the gala that followed the couple's emotional Hall of Fame ceremony.

Throughout the induction -- staged on-ice in what will be the 2010 Olympic venue -- Salé and Pelletier alternately laughed and cried, at once delighted and overwhelmed by the heartfelt tributes and footage of their career highlights that played on the Pacific Coliseum's jumbotron.

They weren't the only ones dabbing their eyes.

Salé spoke to the crowd first. She thanked all the people who had played a role in their success. When she turned the microphone over to Pelletier, he deadpanned: "All that's left for me to thank is the Academy and God."

Before they had to change into their show costumes and skate back into the spotlight, the three-time Canadian and 2001 world champions met with the media for an informal Q&A session. With their candid remarks and playful jibes at each other, Salé and Pelletier charmed the socks off the assembled scribes.

At the outset, the couple admitted they had never quite understood why people cried when they were being feted for their career, their contributions and their achievements. Shouldn't that be a happy occasion, they wondered? In Vancouver, they finally understood the power of being in that moment.

With his trademark sense of humor, Pelletier spoke of the tears he shed during the ceremony. "Since my son was born, I cry watching "Oprah." It's like my heart went from being that big to THAT big. I used to control it better."

He added, "You are re-living all the images [of your career]. It's so intense when you do that. The shot they had at the Olympics before we stepped on the ice, you feel nervous again."

Salé said that it was the tributes offered by the people who had the greatest impact on their career -- their coaches, choreographer and key supporters -- that kept her crying the whole time the video played.

"All our skating coaches that we had when we were kids are still involved in our lives," Pelletier said. "They saw us grow. You can never underestimate the power of your first coach. I didn't like skating at all, but I liked him -- Roland Paquet. He's the one who got me back to the rink [in Rimouski, Quebec], because we had fun together."

When Skate Canada asked where and how they wished to be inducted, Pelletier said it had to be in front of the fans.

"They're the reason we kept going, and, without them, there's no skating," he said.

Salé and Pelletier teamed up in 1998, after she made a phone call to him suggesting a second tryout. She had also called two years earlier. In 1996, they came together for a trial run but ultimately decided the time was not right to launch their partnership.

And how long was it before their real-life Love Story began?

"A year. A year-and-a-half," Pelletier estimated. "She didn't like me very much at the beginning. Oh, well. You live and learn. You change," he said, chuckling. "That one time, I'm the one who took the first step."

For Salé, the best part of the Hall of Fame ceremony was being inducted with her life partner. "I'm so grateful of the career I've had with David. He's been a great partner, a great husband, and he's a great father. I could not ask for a better person to spend my life with and have a career with."

The couple, whose fame skyrocketed amidst the 2002 Olympic judging scandal, now lives and coaches in Edmonton, Alberta, when they are not on the road.