LONDON, Ont. -- The road to Turin will lead through the nation's capital.
Skate Canada announced yesterday that in 2006 it is bringing its national championships back to Ottawa for the first time since 1999. It'll be the third Canadian skating championships held at the Civic Centre in the last 10 years.
More importantly, it's the event at which the composition of Canada's figure skating team for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy will be determined.
"We're going into a seasoned venue, a venue that knows figure skating extremely well," said Skate Canada CEO Pam Coburn, explaining why Ottawa was picked for the Olympic qualifier.
"It's a critical year for us. Not only do we have the Olympics, we also have worlds in Calgary which we're hosting.
"We also thought it was good geographically to spread the wealth out across the country, which we're trying to do."
The Civic Centre's capacity for the event will be 9,300. Coburn said the Corel Centre, which has double the seating, wasn't an option for the event because of a lack of hotel rooms near that arena.
"We're not there yet," she said. "We need a little more infrastructure in the west end. But we are getting close."
The Skate Canada announcement, made during the 2005 nationals in London, brought a smile to the faces of two capital-area pairs skaters who have serious hopes of making the Turin team.
"I'm very excited about it ... I like that idea," said Valerie Marcoux, 24, of Gatineau, the reigning Canadian pairs champion with Craig Buntin of North Vancouver.
"Friends and family can come (and watch), so it'll be fun."
Hull's Anabelle Langlois, the silver medallist at the Canadian championships the past two years with partner Patrice Archetto of Montreal, sees an Ottawa nationals as a rare homecoming.
"That's going to be cool," said Langlois, 23. "Just having any competition at home in Ottawa is going to be really fun."
Ottawa has historically been one of Skate Canada's preferred sites. Eleven Canadian championships have been held here, and the Civic Centre hosted the world championships in 1978 and 1984.
"The excitement and enthusiasm are certainly there in an Olympic year," said Janet Balkwill, chairwoman of Skate Canada Eastern Ontario, the host section.
"We're really pleased, and we've got an experienced team of volunteers ready to go.
"The timing is right for this."
Tickets for the event, to be held Jan. 9-15, went on sale yesterday and are available through Ticketmaster. Lower and upper bowl prices are $175 and $150, respectively.