Putting edge on 'competitions'

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

For the past two and a half years, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier have been skating mostly for no one but the fans.

Tonight at the MTS Centre, Canada's famous figure skating pair will have to impress the judges once again, too.

Sale and Pelletier will headline the star-studded World Team Figure Skating Challenge, which begins at 7:30.

The show, which is part of the professional Stars on Ice tour, will feature four skaters each from Canada, the U.S., Russia and Europe. The team that collects the most points will be deemed the winners.

"Really it's a show, but it's fun for us to have that competitive edge, too," Sale said, "and we know we're out there to win."

Canada won the 2003 event, which was held in Vancouver, by a mere two points over Russia.

JITTERS COME BACK

Sale and Pelletier have participated in only four "competitions" since turning pro in April 2002, but they promise to be ready.

"All they have to do is put in a six-minute warmup and a few people who know what we're doing (judges) and put a mark on it," Pelletier said yesterday after a practice session at the new arena. "Then the jitters come back.

"What we're going to try to do is win the crowd, because that's who we're doing it for in the first place."

Team Canada, which also consists of Kurt Browning and Jennifer Robinson, will have to perform well if they're going to repeat as champions. Russia is rock solid from top to bottom with Alexei Yagudin, Maria Butyrskaya and the pairs team of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze. The U.S. has Todd Eldredge and Nicole Bobek, while Europe will counter with Oksana Baiul.

If Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze sound familiar, it's because they are. They were the ones who shared the gold medal with Sale and Pelletier at the controversial 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Speaking of "Skategate," Sale said their lives haven't exactly slowed down since the infamous Olympics -- the Stars on Ice tour has a whopping 72 dates this winter -- but their number of public appearances has subsided.

"We're extremely busy, we're having a lot of fun -- much more fun than staying at home all the time, right Dave?" Sale said. "Because that would be boring. No, we're enjoying it."

The one thing Sale and Pelletier have missed on their North American adventure this fall is the NHL. The Edmonton residents are known for their fondness of pro hockey.

"When we're in the U.S., we're always trying to go to a game," Sale said. "We always get jerseys. We have, like, 100-and-some jerseys that we've collected. ... Everybody's missing it a lot. It's unfortunate."

Pelletier then glanced around and noted that Winnipeg should get an NHL squad back because of its spiffy new arena.

"It's very sad that cities like Winnipeg, or Quebec City, as a matter of fact, doesn't have a team," said Pelletier, who hails from Quebec. "That tells you how bad a shape hockey is. When two cities like that don't have a team, that says everything about what's wrong with the sport."

If you can't catch tonight's show in person, it will be broadcast on TSN tomorrow at noon and 6 p.m.


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