Rocket has some jump

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- If you want to be an Ice Queen, you have to own a throne.

"Last year I came here without a triple Lutz. I don't think you can be a champion without a major jump," said Joannie Rochette.

Thirty-seven seconds into her short program here last night, the girl we call Rocket Rochette delivered the message.

Triple Lutz. Let everyone here kindly step to the rear and let a winner lead the way.

The 19-year-old, who was defeated by a then 15-year-old Cynthia Phaneuf at the Canadian championships in Edmonton last year, won the short program showdown heading into tonight's free-skate final.

"I want to win. I came here to win," said Rochette. "Coming here there was a lot of pressure. Newspaper people were writing a lot of things about our rivalry.

"I'm more nervous because this year I came to win. Last year I just wanted to make it on to the world team. I was very nervous for this tonight. Last year I didn't do so well in the short program.

"This is a bit different because I know it's possible to win. This is the best I've done with this much pressure."

AN ICE QUEEN -- OR TWO

Last year, these two teenagers put the run on veteran Jennifer Robinson. And here this year, after both enjoyed successes on the Grand Prix tour, there's hope like there hasn't been in ages for Canada producing another Ice Queen - of maybe the two of them pushing each other to greater heights than they could reach if they didn't have each other to compete against in Canada.

We haven't had a female figure-skating idol since Liz Manley made it on the podium 16 years ago with a silver at the Calgary Olympics and another silver at the World Figure Skating Championships the same year.

You have to go back 32 years to find the last Canadian golden girl in the sport. Karen Magnussen won that at Worlds in Bratislava in 1973. Before that, there was Petra Burka in 1965 and Barbara Ann Scott in 1947 and 1948. Scott is our only Olympic gold-medal winner.

The match was made last year in Edmonton. And this round of the rematch went to Rochette.

"I did mistakes and she did clean. That explains everything," said Phaneuf, who stumbled on her triple Lutz at the front of the combination. "It's a lot of stress," she said.

MORE STRESS

It didn't help that the judges took forever wrestling with the new scoring system on the previous skater while Phaneuf waited for her turn. "More stress. More stress."

Coach Annie Barabe said the delay seemed to take forever. "She came over and said 'I'm ready now.' "

Barabe shrugged the day away.

"She was not perfect. She has more pressure on her. Her goal isn't just to win the Canadian championship again but to make the world team."

Last year, Skate Canada and her coach decided not to allow her to compete at Worlds because of her tender age. It would be a double whammy if she didn't get the trip to Moscow in March.

Rochette leads the event with 88.16 points followed by Phaneuf with 78.18, and Lesley Hawker, a waitress from Barrie, Ont., is third at 66.00.

The top two go to Worlds.

Rochette's coach Sebastien Britten said what we watched here last night was "a very, very intense performance" from his skater. "If you want to win, you have to be flawless."

The only flaw she had was almost ending up in the lap of two fans in the area you'd describe as behind the net in hockey when she wobbled going into a footwork sequence.

"She went for everything full out. She knows what she wants. She wants to be the best and wants it real bad. She was anxious to go. She was like a horse. You had to hold back, hold back and then let her go."

Whoa, Nellie! Under the new scoring system, I think she has about a two-length lead at the clubhouse turn.


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