Valley pair takes gold

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:02 AM ET

MISSISSAUGA -- On the whole, they'd rather have been in Helsinki.

But Siobhan Karam and Joshua McGrath hardly considered it a weekend wasted at the Hershey Centre.

The Minto Skating Club duo easily grabbed the junior ice dance gold medal at the Skate Canada Eastern Challenge yesterday, scoring 70.23 points with a free dance that was clearly a cut above the rest.

With a 151.36 grand total, Karam and McGrath won the event by 30.37 points over Quebec's Mylene Lamoureux and Michael Mee.

It was the highest cumulative score yet with their 2004 programs, with this event representing another chance to expose their skating to a judging panel using the new system.

But Karam admitted she and McGrath would have preferred an opportunity to skate at the Junior Grand Prix final in Finland. That hope died when they placed fifth at a series event in Germany in October. They needed to finish in the medals to reach the final.

"That was disappointing," said Karam, 18, of Ottawa. "But that was more when we knew in Germany that we weren't going.

"Now we're just concentrating on this."

The Detroit-based couple knows all too well about dealing with heartbreak. Back in January, they were 45 seconds away from the junior gold medal at the Canadian championships in Edmonton. But an untimely fall dumped them to the bronze-medal position for a second straight year.

"We've had a lot of things thrown in our way," said Karam. "But if we can make it through all we've been through, we'll appreciate it that much more when we get where we want to be."

This season represents their final shot at both the Canadian junior ice dance crown and a chance to wear the red maple leaf at the world junior championships.

The latter event is being held on home soil -- Feb. 28-March 6 in Kitchener. Karam won't be age-eligible for either event next season.

"That's why we're still in junior," she said. "This is our big year to try to accomplish everything."

But they're trying not to dwell on what lies ahead.

"We're just going to focus on the skating," said McGrath, 18, of Greely.

VALLEY CHEERS: Tara Forstner of Alexandria was buried in 17th place following the novice women's free skate. But by scoring 42.36 points in yesterday's free program, Forstner zoomed up the standings to grab the 10th and final qualifying position for the Skate Canada Junior Nationals, Feb. 2-5 in Ste-Foy, Que. The top 10 novice women and top eight in all other novice and pre-novice events advanced to Ste-Foy.

DOUBLE PLAY: It'll be a busy junior nationals for Nathan Last. The 16-year-old from the Nepean Skating Club held on to eighth place following yesterday's novice men's free skate, earning himself a spot in Ste-Foy. Last will also be entered in pre-novice pairs with Emily Jamieson. It's their second junior nationals. Clubmate Bradley Price wound up 11th among novice men and will only compete in novice pairs in Ste-Foy with Veronique Lalonde.


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