Oversights nothing new for Orser

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 6:59 AM ET

Six-time Canadian champion Jennifer Robinson is thrilled and excited to have been asked to act as honorary chairperson for the Canadian figure skating championships at the John Labatt Centre beginning next week.

Eight-time Canadian champ Brian Orser would have been thrilled just to get an invitation.

"I don't know why not," the former world champion said yesterday prior to going on the ice for a clinic with the North Dorchester Skating Club in Dorchester. "I'm a bit surprised, since I do a lot of work with Skate Canada. I'll be watching it on television."

The silver medal winner at two Olympic Games is accustomed to oversights. The most crushing one came on home ice, at the Calgary Olympics in 1988.

There are those in and outside skating who will forever contend he deserved the gold medal, not Brian Boitano of the U.S.

Last winter, Orser headlined the opening ceremonies for the Ontario Winter Games here with a marvellous performance for anyone, let alone a 42-year-old. It came 30 years after the Penetanguishene native won the Ontario Games singles title at age 12. It was the first time he was asked to participate.

Not that the trim athlete is losing any sleep over such things. He's got a full slate of appearances at fundraisers that also include skiing during the winter (he arrived in Dorchester from an event in Calgary) plus golf in the summer.

And he gets to step out his door and skate whenever he wants.

"I live right on the Rideau Canal," the Ottawa resident said, "so I'm out there whenever I can. It's a beautiful place to skate, but a bit hard on the blades at times."

Robinson, meantime, says she's almost as excited as when she competed since this will be the recently retired diva's first Canadians on the sidelines in what effectively has been half her life. Added to her honour is that she is the only the second one so chosen. Legendary Barbara Ann Scott was the first.

"My parents will be coming in from Windsor (for the championships) and it'll be the first time in 15 years they won't be nervous."

Robinson resides in Barrie, where she teaches figure skating in the morning and does television in the afternoon as co-host of a Rogers Cable show.

"I'm learning it all -- how to shoot and edit as well as be on camera. I write the show. I'm trying to learn everything because I'd like to take it as far as I can. I've learned one thing -- when you've devoted all your time to something for a long time, you have to learn how to learn again."

Orser has kept his eye on all levels of Canadian figure skating even though his clinics focus on younger skaters.

"I'm very encouraged about the future of Canadian skating. I think it's important to have two top skaters in both men's and women's singles because they tend to push each other to greater things.

"Emmanuel Sandu and Jeremy Buttle have a healthy competition going between them and so do Cynthia Phaneuf and Joanie Rochette. I think we can definitely be top five (in the world) in both."

Canadian men's figure skating had Elvis Stojko and Kurt Browning battling and an era earlier Toller Cranston had tough domestic rivals. Orser's Canadian dominance meant his most difficult tests were reserved for the international stage.

He isn't unhappy over new rules that tend to take in all the elements of a skater's ability more comprehensively.

"For a time, if you couldn't do a quad (quadruple axel), don't bother coming out," he said. "I feel the focus now involves more components of a skater's athleticism."

Orser will be watching events from the JLC with interest. On his TV set.


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