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Langlois, Hay hold on for Canadian national title

Chan beats Buttle, becomes youngest Canadian men's national champ

Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay clinched their first national title on Saturday.
Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay clinched their first national title on Saturday. (Getty Images)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(01/19/2008) - Relief, shock and satisfaction were the order of the day in the pairs event at the 2008 BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships on Saturday.

Reigning champs Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison breathed a huge sigh of relief after rebounding from a devastating fifth-place short program to win the free skate and climb to second overall.

It wasn't what they had come to the 2010 Olympic venue to do, but today, making the worlds and Four Continents teams was good enough after their error-strewn opening skate.

For Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay, the fact they had actually won was still sinking in several minutes after the final placements flashed onto the scoreboard.

The couple, competing in just their third nationals together, delivered two solid programs which, combined, outscored Dubé and Davison by just 0.15 points -- 175.01 to 174.86.

"I've got a great team, a great coach, a great partner. I couldn't ask for better," Langlois said.

"To see the excitement and relief on Anabelle's face, that was enough excitement for me," Hay added.

Third place went to Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin, who also performed a top-notch program, posting a total score of 170.28.

Langlois had let the gold medal slip through her fingers in previous years when she competed with Patrice Archetto. Saturday, it was Hay who finally helped her seal the deal and win her first gold to go with the five bronze and silver medals she had collected with Archetto.

Asked about her lengthy run as a runner-up, Langlois, who was third with Hay last year, said, "I still wanted to win, obviously, but I had almost given up, thinking 'Maybe I'll never be Canadian champion.' Every time the newspaper back home interviewed me, they'd ask, 'So, are you finally going to win?'"

Three years ago when Langlois partnered with Hay -- two years her junior -- he had just finished fifth in juniors nationally, while she had ranked among the top five in the world.

He has come a very long way in a short time.

Langlois and Hay included a triple twist and successfully executed a throw triple flip in their Dr. Zhivago program. Davison and Dubé and Duhamel and Buntin did a double twist, and both couples included a throw triple Lutz, but Dubé went down on theirs.

"I though I was going to do it today, but unfortunately, I was a little bit quick [on the launch]. I won't fall on it at Four Continents or worlds, hopefully. In practice, I feel really good doing it," Dubé said.

The couple admitted they didn't realize until after the short program how difficult it would be to defend a title, compared to challenging for one.

Duhamel was moved to tears when she realized that for the first time in many years, she had not come unraveled in the final round at the Canadian championships. Both in singles and pairs with a former partner, Duhamel would put out strong short program skates only to crumble in the free skate.

"I left every Canadians wanting to quit skating. Until today," said Duhamel, who partnered with Buntin only seven months ago.

Making a return to the worlds, where he finished sixth last year with Valerie Marcoux, was high on Buntin's wish list when he set out in search of a new partner last spring. He and Marcoux had been Canadian champions three times (2004-2006).

"Tonight was awesome," Buntin said. "To get on the podium and go to worlds, I'm really proud of this woman sitting beside me."

Men

Seventeen-year-old Patrick Chan broke into a wide grin when he landed his triple flip, the eighth clean triple jump in his Vivaldi "Four Seasons" free skate. With two spins and footwork still to come, he had to keep reminding himself not to get too excited before the job was completely done.

"I had that flashback moment about Paris, where I fell on my butt in the last spin. I was like, 'Oh, God. OK, Patrick, smile, but don't go too crazy. You've still got footwork.'

"Then, I hit the boards [at the start of the footwork]. I said, 'Oh, oh, oh. Wake-up call. Don't get too carried away.'"

He didn't and instead made history, becoming the youngest man ever to win the Canadian singles title by outskating three-time champ Jeffrey Buttle at the Canadian championships.

Chan's nearly flawless routine proved too tough an act for Buttle to follow.

The 2006 Olympic bronze medalist and three-time defending champion managed just five clean triples, falling on his second triple Axel and doubling a planned triple Lutz as his Ararat program came to a close. Buttle earned 229.85 points in all to Chan's 232.68.

The bronze medal went to Shawn Sawyer, who notched 197.48 points, some 30 points less than Buttle. With only two men's berths available for the 2008 World Championships, Sawyer will not make the trip to Sweden but likely will be named to the Four Continents Championships team.

When Chan left the ice, and the fans stood and cheered, the young champion embraced his coach, Don Laws, the man who coached Scott Hamilton to fame.

"It's just like when I won the Grand Prix in Paris [the Trophee Eric Bompard]. I did not expect it," said Chan, who trailed Buttle by more than seven points heading into the final. "This whole season has been like a dream almost. I'm still in a trance kind of, right now, so I'm just getting the feeling of being national champion."

Chan, who won the world junior silver medal last season, said his triple Axel did not go well in his morning practice, and in the six-minute competition warm-up it "was even worse." He told himself to think how that could happen when he was training, but that he could still get the Axel done when he ran through his program. His pep talk worked.

Looking ahead to worlds, Chan said, "I'll just give it my best shot. It's my first worlds, and I'm national champion. Holy smokes, that's a lot on me.... I want to try and bring three spots for worlds next year, because two spots is very hard when we've got so many good Canadian guys. We need room for them."

When a journalist informed Chan he was the youngest man to win the title, the teenager beamed. "Holy sh-moly!" he exclaimed, noting that he had been told he was the youngest ever to win the Grand Prix in Paris.

"He [Chan] won fair and square and, you know, I'm still proud of myself," Buttle said.

"I was obviously really disappointed that I didn't get the fourth title, but you know what? I won a title skating worse than that, so I'll take a good skate with a second place over a bad skate with a first place.

"Now I'll feel a lot better going into Four Continents and worlds than I have in the past, so there's nothing wrong with that," Buttle said.

Chan described Buttle as a "great mentor" and a "good buddy."

"We have no rivalry like Evan [Lysacek] and Johnny [Weir]. I'm the 'peace' guy, kind of," Chan said, flashing a peace sign and prompting a roar of laughter from the assembled journalists.

As the men's event progressed, potential medalists like Christopher Mabee, Fedor Andreev and Vaughn Chipeur fell by the wayside, committing one too many errors to land on the podium.

Their miscues allowed Sawyer to sneak into third, climbing all the way from sixth in the short.

Kevin Reynolds finished back in sixth, but he matched Evgeni Plushenko's feat in executing the storied quad-triple-triple -- a quad toe loop-triple toe-triple loop to be exact.