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Rochette wins fifth Canadian crown

Dube and Davison rebound to win second title

Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison are managing the pressures of the Olympic Games in their home country.
Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison are managing the pressures of the Olympic Games in their home country. (Getty Images)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(01/17/2009) - Joannie Rochette picked herself up, dusted herself off and bounced back with a vengeance from a disastrous short program to claim her fifth Canadian crown on Saturday.

Some two-and-half hours later Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison followed suit.

Rochette was unusually emotional at the end of her near-flawless performance, burying her face in her hands and then pumping her fists in celebration as the fans roared their approval. She scored 131.77 points for her long program set to a Spanish concerto, 185.35 in all.

Cynthia Phaneuf, the surprise overnight leader, settled for second after falls on three triple jumps. Four others did materialize, however, and that was enough to keep Phaneuf ahead of Amelie Lacoste.

Phaneuf, the bronze medalist in 2008, collected 151.42 in total to Lacoste's 143.01. Lacoste was eighth last year.

"I'm not a very emotional skater but, at the end, I was so relieved I could do this that I was just really happy about tonight," said Rochette, who described the situation she put herself in as the toughest she has ever had to deal with in competition.

"I was so relieved I could pull this off on a day that I was feeling really bad, I was shaking, and I didn't have so much energy. I'm glad I could still do it... it should be the same for the short program," she added.

"When I got out there and the music started I felt much better. I could get immersed in the music and forget about the stress. I'm very happy about this program, mad about the other, so I have mixed feelings."

Since finishing fifth at the 2008 Worlds, Rochette has made no secret of the fact she wants to be on the podium in Los Angeles and again at the 2010 Olympics.

"We're going to do everything when we go home to make it happen," she vowed.

At 15, Phaneuf was the 2004 national champion and has been in comeback mode ever since a major growth spurt and injuries almost derailed her ambitions.

She admitted she considered quitting, but her "love of skating" kept her going. A sports psychologist has been helping to rebuild her confidence and deal with the stress of competition.

There will be more work to do after Phaneuf conceded she was very nervous as she took the ice on Saturday and, although she started and finished strongly, fell on a Lutz, flip and Salchow.

"It wasn't a very easy skate for me. I had to fight until the end. Skating after Joannie it was very hard to try to focus on myself. I am very happy with what I did because I fought until the end and I'm very proud of myself," she said.

At the conclusion of the post-event media conference, it was announced that Rochette and Phaneuf would be Canada's two women's representatives at the World Championships in Los Angeles. With Lacoste, they will also compete at the ISU Four Continents in Vancouver in two weeks.

Like Rochette, world bronze pairs medalists Dube and Davison had to stage a come-from-behind win and they did it in fine style with an exquisitely dramatic long program set to Carmen.

Coming into the final, first round leaders Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin had a cushion of 3.5 points, but Dube and Davison closed that gap -- and then some -- to regain the Canadian title they first won in 2007.

With 126.21 points for their finale, Dube and Davison earned 188.43 in all, while Duhamel and Buntin scored 116.76 for their Tosca program for a total of 182.50.

Mylène Brodeur and John Mattatall finished third, but with a total score of 159.85 were well back of the frontrunners.

"Yesterday wasn't quite as good as we wanted it to be, but we came back today with something really strong and I think it's going to put us on the right track for Four Continents and worlds," Dube said.

After a jittery Grand Prix season in which they failed to qualify for the Final, Dube and Davison went back to the drawing board to revamp their training regimen and their relationship.

Davison revealed that, being perfectionists, they had been getting down on themselves when things were not working out as they wanted. The problem, which first surfaced at Skate Canada, snowballed to the point their training suffered.

"We just weren't doing the repetitions and spending the time on the ice working together. NHK was a big eye-opener for us," Davison said, referring to their two sub-par performances there. "We came back, talked a lot, and got back to work."

Duhamel and Buntin, together just 18 months, have made steady gains in their performance level since finishing sixth at the 2008 Worlds. They came here to win, they said, but took pride in the silver medal, nonetheless.

Their only serious error came when he doubled a planned triple Salchow. Like Dube and Davison, they also had synchronization issues on the side-by-side combination spin.

"To come out after the world bronze medalists -- just two-and-a-half points behind us -- get a standing ovation and having to start our program, we're going to be twice as good because of the experience we got here," Buntin suggested. "We beat our personal best by some seven points and got a world-class score in the short and, now, this we have under our belts."

Duhamel added, "It's hard to start a program hearing someone else's scores that good. They got 126 and our personal best was 109, but we had a job to do."

Canada has three spots for pairs at the upcoming World Championships. Dube and Davison and Duhamel and Buntin have now been assigned to that event, as well as to Four Continents. The third spot for both is being held open until Skate Canada can assess the readiness of 2008 pairs champions, Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay, to compete. Langlois and Hay had to withdraw from this event when her recovery from a fibula fracture stalled.