Challengers jump into heated race

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:37 AM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- Three teams separated by less than two points. And a pair of trail blazers right behind them.

Sounds like we've got quite the senior pairs story brewing at the Canadian figure skating championships.

Defending champs Valerie Marcoux of Gatineau and Craig Buntin of North Vancouver hold the lead after last night's short program. But breathing room is surely in short supply.

Marcoux and Buntin totalled 60.21 points before a John Labatt Centre audience of 4,472. But their edge over Montreal-based Utako Wakamatsu and Jean-Sebastien Fecteau is razor-thin -- a mere 0.64 points.

Third-place Anabelle Langlois of Hull and Patrice Archetto of Montreal are another 0.72 points back.

Meanwhile, fourth-place Meagan Duhamel and Ryan Arnold, who skate out of Barrie, made some history last night by landing the first side-by-side triple lutzes at a Canadians. They're in fourth place.

"We can both do them on our own, so why not?" said Arnold, 20, of Huntsville. "That's awesome (being the first)."

Marcoux fell on a triple toe loop at the start of their sultry short program, but the overall quality of it carried them to top spot.

MISSED JUMP

"We missed a jump, so we were surprised to still be first," said Marcoux. "But we're happy we didn't let the program down even after falling at the beginning."

They're determined to be stronger in tomorrow's free skate final.

"There's a sign up for the London Knights outside the dressing room that says 'You've gotta believe,' " said Buntin. "That's what we want to do. We want to go out and have a good time."

Langlois left the arena beating herself up over doubling up on their side-by-side triple toes.

"I'm definitely hating myself right now," she said. "I won't sleep well."

There's no resting easy tomorrow. Not with only two Canadian team berths available for the world championships in Moscow.

Said Fecteau: "It's harder to get out of this country than to finish top 10 in the world."

Earlier yesterday, the ice dance competition got started with the compulsories.

Montreal's Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon took the first step toward their third national title with the best score for the Midnight Blues (40.96 points).

Vancouver's Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe were second (38.31), while Chantal Lefebvre and Arseniy Markov of the Minto Skating Club stand third (37.02).


Photos