It's all an act, but Phaneuf is amazing
By MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun
HAMILTON -- It's unfair, fundamentally unfair, what Cynthia Phaneuf can do. No, the reigning Canadian women's champ did not win her event at the Four Continents figure skating championships last night at Copps Coliseum. An eighth-place finish in the short program on Wednesday nixed that. Despite winning the free skate hands down, she finished second to upset winner Yukina Ota of Japan. Joannie Rochette of Ile Dupas, Que., finished fourth overall, and Jennifer Robinson of Windsor was fifth.
A few moments before she took the ice last night, Phaneuf's nose began to bleed, just as it did on Wednesday. This time, she had a few more minutes to wipe away the blood before she hit the ice.
Instead of skating for a title at an event that quickly has tumbled into the unimportant (only 3,500 people bothered to show up), Phaneuf delivered something less tangible, but perhaps more remarkable.
Hers was a performance so emotionally unsheathed that it was at turns painful to watch. Fun to skate, terrible to watch.
"She's an actress," her coach Annie Barabe likes to say. "The choreographer David Wilson wants her to display certain emotions. She knows what emotions she has to have. In the beginning, it's hope."
Then anguish, an anguish that would crush your bones while you were still wearing them. Then triumph and that is the strange alchemy that a 16-year-old kid who likes to play hide and seek in her arena in Drummondville can bring, apparently at will.
She cannot possibly have experienced what she displays so vividly on the ice. She's just a kid.
"On the ice I am older than I am," she said. "Off the ice, I am younger.
If you see her skate, you know Cynthia Phaneuf is acting. But you have seen a child's face, okay, your kid's face, contort in that very way, it brings you to a place that you don't often reach while watching the Maple Leafs. Hers is a total transcendence.
An adult would look silly wearing that very expression of grief but in Cynthia Phaneuf, there is a terrible sincerity about it and its flip side, the safe landing from a demanding journey, yanked the patrons from their seats last night.
Phaneuf skated a performance that they tell me was nearly flawless and I will not argue. She landed seven triples, two in combination. She started with a triple loop. What was it that Nuke LaLoosh, Tim Robbins' loopy creation, said in Bull Durham? "Thought I'd announce my presence with authority."
"It was perfect," Phaneuf said. "That's what I did in practice. That's what I did on the ice. Before my program I knew I was going to do it."
She telegraphed that confidence with a short, violent pump of her left arm as she glided onto the ice.
Stand back non-believers, I'm about to make it rain.
And she did. She scored a 5.3 to 5.7 on technical merit, 5.5 to 5.8 on artistic.
It was for everyone else to put the finish on the night. Robinson delivered a laudable rebound from her failure at the Canadians with a fine skate. "I tried to skate aggressively and to pick up the speed throughout the program," she said. To that end, she rolled out a triple Salchow, triple loop thingy that everyone said was great. "To come from three poor performances to two strong ones is great," she said. "I'll take this confidence to the worlds."
Phaneuf isn't going to the worlds. She's too young.
But I'll tell you something else.
That kid could prime a tear from a copper kettle. It's not right what she can do. Not right at all.