Podium pressures

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- Promises. Promises. Promises.

Call it a whatever you want. A projection, a prediction or a guarantee. But Pam Coburn says Canada won't get skunked again on the way to Vancouver 2010.

The Skate Canada CEO stood in front of her national team figure skaters yesterday and dumped a heaping helping of pressure on them for the immediate future and beyond.

"In 2006 it is Skate Canada's goal to win a combined four medals at the Olympics and World Championships, a goal I firmly believe is well within the reach," she said.

Next year's Olympic Winter Games are in Torino, Italy, and the Worlds are in Calgary.

And the medals we'll win this year at Worlds in Moscow?

"Two," she said.

NO MEDALS

Last year in Dortmund, Germany, Canada failed to put a person on the podium for the first time in 22 years. For the first time in over 50 years, no Canadian finished higher than eighth.

Is she dreaming in Technicolor?

Is she scheming to prop up Canada's profile in a sport which is still suffering from the judging scandal in Salt Lake 2002?

Is this realistic?

Is it fair?

We know that the Canadian Olympic Committee recently declared Canada's goal of 35 medals for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. But that's the COC.

To hear Coburn, earlier this week, say that figure skating is down for three medals for an event six years away is one thing.

But to suddenly tell her skaters, at a press conference here yesterday, that she expects them to start coming through again starting two months from now in Moscow is an eyebrow raiser.

Joannie Rochette has yet to win a Canadian championship. Just turned 19 here this week, Rochette finished second to just-turned-17-year-old Cynthia Phanouf at the Canadians last year in Edmonton.

Phanouf wasn't even allowed to go to Worlds last year because Skate Canada didn't figure it would be fair to put any pressure on her.

Rochette was one of the skaters who finished eighth at Worlds last year.

"I think it's not putting pressure, it's being optimistic," said Rochette, as the media surrounded her following Coburn's statement.

"It's setting goals," she said.

"You need to have high goals. I have high goals. I want to reach for my goals."

Coburn is basing her predicitions and projections on Canada's good year so far this year and on the new judging system in which she says Canada's skaters are ahead of the curve.

Canada won 13 medals in the Grand Prix series. Which sounds great. Except with drastically reduced prize money this year, fields were less than star-studded. Canada finished 1-2-3 with Emanuel Sandhu, Ben Ferreira and Jeff Buttle at Skate Canada, for example.

More impressive for down the road, but certainly not ready to kick in in time for Torino or Calgary, were the 13 medals Canada won on the junior Grand Prix circuit.

Yesterday the entire program was filled with junior competition here as is always the case on Wednesdays prior to turning on the TV cameras for the short programs in women's and pairs tonight. There are old hands, including Louis Stong, the Hall of Fame coach, who says this might be one of the greatest collections of Canadian talent at the junior level ever.

NEW WAVE

"It's strong. They're good," he said.

"Our net is bigger now. We're catching more," he said of the sport finding young skaters to develop for the future.

While the culture of this sport is not to criticize the little darlings, Coburn says figure skaters should have the same expectations as any other Canadian athletes.

"They're competitive," she said of the new wave of young talent.

"They need to learn to deal with pressure.

"In June, we talked about pressure to them," she said of the members of the national team, They're fine with it.

"We talked to the coaches in the fall. They're fine with it, too.

"We need to get competitive. We want to win. Canada wants to win."


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