Pressure's on Phaneuf

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- There's pressure on her to be 'Phaneuf the Phenomenon' we watched last year winning Canadians in Edmonton.

But all she could think of was being 'Cynthia the Terrible', the skater she was at her first Grand Prix Finals in China last month.

Cynthia Phaneuf, who celebrated her 17th birthday here Sunday, was a little bit of both as she finished second to Joannie 'Rocket' Rochette as the 87th Canadian Figure Skating Championships opened here yesterday.

Maybe if she'd been allowed to take the trip she earned to go to Worlds last year, Phaneuf would have been better able to deal with what she's facing now.

If she'd been allowed to compete for Canada after winning the Canadian title, maybe she'd have been better equipped to handle her first Grand Prix and her first day as defending champion at Canadians.

But on the whole, she was happy to get through the day sitting second to her Quebec teammate.

"I was very stressed," Phaneuf said of the skate in which she nailed a triple Lutz for openers and then was all over the lot landing four triple jumps while popping a flip, touching down on a camel spin, staggering out of a triple Lutz and two- footing a double Salchow.

TERRIBLE IN CHINA

"I was fighting. In and out. In and out. I didn't want it to be China again. In China, it was terrible," she said of making a mess of her Grand Prix final debut, finishing sixth in a field of six while Rochette won a bronze medal.

"I tried to forget. It was not nice. I didn't want to have more of China here," she said.

"I think she was impressed with all the world champions and Olympic medalists," said coach Annie Barabe. "She wanted to come here and just focus on herself and not watch the other skaters."

Phaneuf called her skate "an ice breaker. Now I think I'll be fine."

She said she's glad to have the qualifying competition behind her and to be able to move on without any serious damage having been done.

"I have some big goals," she said.

"For sure I want to keep the title."

Rochette scored 109.41 for the long program, which was her second best total (she scored 113.08 in the Paris Grand Prix) for the long program.

But this was the qualifying competition worth 25%, so she ended up with 27.35 to win her section of qualifying to take forward to the short program and the free-skate final.

ON TO SHORT PROGRAM

Phaneuf scored 93.66 in her skate to take 23.42 points ahead to the short program on Thursday.

Rochette touched down on a double Lutz and turned what was to be a triple Lutz into a double. Other than that, it was a solid show.

"I had some mistakes with the Lutz. It was stupid mistakes," said the Ile. Dupas, Que., native, who skated the jumps perfect in practice earlier in the day and was producing a triple-triple-double combination in practice a few days earlier.

She said being able to forge foward after making a mistake maybe shows a little more maturity on her part this year.

"Once in a while you miss something at practice. Today it was the Lutz.

"But every day I get more comfortable skating," said the just-turned 19-year-old.

Coach Sabastian Britten says Rocket Rochette has learned to control her temper.

"She used to let her temper be affected by small things," he said. "We're teaching her to leave those small things behind.

"She likes to be perfect. Now she's starting to allow herself to make a mistake."

Mira Leung of Vancouver is third and Lesley Hawker of Barrie, Ont., fourth.

Alesha Checkly of the Royal Glenora and Monica Boucher of the Sherwood Park Figure Skating Club both made the cut, but are placed 14th and 15th respectively going into the short program.


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