Really tough to figure

Will Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto, who skate out of the Edmonton Royal Glenora, get it...

Will Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto, who skate out of the Edmonton Royal Glenora, get it done at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships this year? (Sun File Photos)

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- Welcome to 'The Forest City' and the great debate if Canada has become the late, great figure skating nation.

Will the North rise again? Will the country which gave the world Barbara Ann Scott, Donald Jackson, Barbara Wagner & Robert Paul, Jamie Sale & David Pelletier, Brian Orser, Elvis Stojko, Kurt Browning and so many more return to putting people on the podium?

In time for next year's Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy? In time for next year's World Figure Skating Championships in Calgary?

Will Canada find a future here to take to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver?

Those are the questions which hang over the Canadian Figure Skating Championships that open here today with a focus on females for the first time in a long, long time.

FIRST OF MANY SHUTOUTS?

Was the shutout at the Worlds in Dortmund, Germany, last year the first of many? Will we leave here believing there will be another one in Moscow, Russia in March?

Is this the beginning of the end?

Or is this a new beginning?

Was a star born at last year's Canadians in Edmonton in Cynthia Phaneuf, the girl who won the title, but wasn't allowed to go to Worlds by Skate Canada, and celebrated her 17th birthday at practice here yesterday?

Are Joanie 'Rocket' Rochette's recent results for real?

Is that gutless wonder Emanuel Sandhu going to finally find some intestinal fortitude and make something out of his amazing talent? Is Jeff Buttle finally making his move from pretender to contender?

Will Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto put together performances which will offer evidence that their move to Edmonton's Royal Glenora club to replace Sale & Pelletier will pay off with a realization of their potential? Or will they surrender the stage which was expected to be theirs to Valerie Marcoux & Craig Button or others on the rise?

And will we see what the coaches claim - that there's a tonne of talent on the way? You'd have to figure it would become visible in the junior ranks here. Anybody who isn't on the radar screen by 2005 isn't likely to be on the podium by 2010.

AT THE CROSSROADS

You could make the contention that Canada is at the crossroads in the sport here this week. Remember the line on Canada at the world championships last year was 8th, 8th, 8th, 9th, 9th, 11th, 13th, 14th and 23rd.

Pessimism is permitted.

It's been 16 years without putting a female skater on the podium at Worlds. Karen Magnussen made it in 1972, and Canada waited 16 years until Liz Manley made it to the podium at Worlds after she won the Olympic silver medal in Calgary in 1988.

Suddenly, though, Rochette and Phaneuf, have provided hope that the two could drive each other to greater glory.

Last year in Edmonton, Phaneuf was a phenomenon, and she backed it up with podium placements on the Grand Prix tour while Rochette won the bronze at the Grand Prix Final.

It's been eons since Canadian women have seen success like that.

But in this sport, other than on an Olympic year, there are two events which matter most - Canadians and Worlds.

Rochette was one of those who finished eighth at Worlds last year. As bad as our women have been over the years, it was the first time since Barbara Ann Scott retired in 1948 that Canada's best result at Worlds was so low.

So when it comes to the women, cautious optimism is what we're talking about here.

And with Sandhu, after his bit of business last year at Worlds, there's almost the opposite expectation. There will be people hoping he doesn't succeed here to squander it all again. Buttle won silver at the Grand Prix finals.

The fact that Buttle was born in London and started his skating career at the Forest City Figure Skating Club won't be the only reason people are cheering for him here.

As for the pairs, Langlois and Archetto have had the best international results since Sale & Pelletier left the scene. But they've never won a Canadian championship.

Will they finally get their act together here this year? Or do the results tell the tale? Is this a team going backwards?


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