Phaneuf ready to take on worlds

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 6:54 AM ET

No one's going to stop figure skater Cynthia Phaneuf from getting to the world championships this year -- not even her coaches.

The teen from Sorel-Tracy, Que., who jumped and spun to a shocking win at 15 in senior women's at the Canadian championships last January, hopes next week's nationals in London end with a ticket to compete with the global best in Moscow in March.

After reeling off the upset victory in Edmonton to ruin six-time champ Jennifer Robinson's retirement party, Phaneuf gave up her automatic spot at the worlds.

In essence, she was handed a competitive shield by her coaches, who felt Phaneuf would be better served competing at junior worlds rather than with the big guns in Germany.

It was the first time in 24 years that Canada wasn't represented at the worlds by its women's champ. Skate Canada took some verbal bullets for allowing third-place Robinson another shot to compete while Phaneuf opted to watch.

There is no room to sing the same tune this time.

"World championships are a goal. I just want to go there," Phaneuf, who turns 17 on Sunday, said yesterday.

"I want to get one of the top two spots at Canadians and go to worlds. I'm sure it was the right decision last year. It helped my growth."

But this time, she wants more. It's clear she is still smarting from her most recent international assignment when she finished sixth at the Grand Prix final in Beijing, China. She won't be passing up any opportunities to skate in pressure-filled arenas any time soon.

"I had the chance to skate well and give a good impression and I didn't," she said. Annie Barabe, one of Phaneuf's coaches, "told me I fought until the end. I learned not to be stressed, to be me every day and feel good, to have some fun."

Phaneuf claims her life hasn't changed since winning the Canadian title, other than giving her a bit more of a profile. She still goes to practice and does her best to improve her routines.

"I'm not the kind of person who gets confident and doesn't feel that they have to work hard."

In a sense, she is still trying to appreciate how quickly she soared to the top of Canadian figure skating. Three years ago, she finished second to London's Lauren Wilson in the national junior girls' division in Hamilton. Now, she has a chance to pull off back-to-back titles at the senior level.

But this is no coronation -- she knows she'll need to fend off a couple of challengers capable of beating her.

Fellow Quebecer Joannie Rochette, who turns 19 today, finished second at last year's nationals. She was third at the Grand Prix in China last month and, based on recent performances, can be considered the biggest threat to Phaneuf's crown.

If they finish one-two here, the good friends will get the opportunity to travel to the world's top skating events together.

IF YOU GO

Canadian figure skating championships

When: Monday through Jan. 23 at the John Labatt Centre

Tickets: 519-488-1012 or any Ticketmaster location. Also online at www.ticketmaster.ca or at the John Labatt Centre box office.


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