Knock yourself out!

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:02 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- Maybe it was an omen. When Anabelle Langlois climbed on the bus after practice the night before with an ice bag on her head after having knocked herself out knocking heads with her partner ...

Yesterday Langlois knocked herself out of a chance to take her usual trip to Worlds with Patrice Archetto as Canada's top pairs team.

That resulted in a 23-year-old Japanese girl becoming the best story on the property as she won a trip to Moscow.

In February of 2002, when Jamie Sale & David Pelletier were making world-wide headlines at the Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games, Atako Wakamatsu quietly flew to Montreal to try out as a partner with Jean Sebastien Fecteau.

Yesterday, skating in a traditional Japanese kimono, Wakamatsu, a young lady not yet eligible to skate for Canada in the Olympics for lack of Canadian citizenship, won the right to skate for Canada at the world championships.

More accurately, Langlois lost it.

Two-footing the throw triple loop, falling on the triple toe loop in the side-by-side jumps and two-footing and single-rotating jumps in the triple toe-double Axel combination, Langlois was a major mess.

NOT DISAPPOINTED

"I'm not disappointed. I'm angry. I'm angry at myself. I feel really bad for Pat,'' she said after the disaster which makes you wonder about the future of the Edmonton Royal Glenora-based pair, a.k.a. the next Sale & Pelletier.

"Three years ago in Saskatoon it was Pat. Last year in Edmonton it was both of us. This year here it was me. I don't know why. I wish I could give you an answer,'' she said of the two who manage to botch it up every year at Canadians.

Two years ago they finished fifth in the world and last year had Canada's best result at eighth but they just can't get it done at home. And this year it really came undone here.

It wasn't the accident in practice.

"It was a minor accident. We knocked our heads together. It knocked me out. But that's not the reason.''

Coach Jan Ullmark said this was mental.

"I think they keep thinking what they did in previous years. It's a mental block. They say it's not. But maybe it's not what you say, but what you think.

''I can't explain it. It's in their minds. It's what goes on in their heads. It's not that they can't do everything really well,'' said Sale & Pelletier's gold- medal coach. "Obviously there's something that's not working.''

Asked if they might have to break up, Ullmark said "Yeah, they might.''

Thinking for another moment, he suggested this might be a moment which either brings them together or tears them apart.

"It's easy to support each other when you're doing really well. It's not so easy when you're not.''

It's not like this was a tough Canadian title to win. Last year when Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin won it in Edmonton, they were over the moon. This year, they felt like throwing it back.

"Even if we'd been second last year, we'd have been happier than we are this year,'' he said of their flawed free skate final.

In the end they stayed champs with a 172.67-point total. Wakamatsu & Fecteau ended up with 165.76 points and the Edmonton-based pair had 162.92.

FELT LIKE WINNERS

Wakamatsu & Fecteau were the only ones who felt like winners.

"I almost retired,'' said Fecteau, a 29-year-old who went to Worlds with a different partner in 1999 and finished 13th.

"We had to go out of the country to get a partner. My coach had seen her skating singles in Japan and flew her to Montreal when the Olympics were going on in February of 2002.

''She came back in April and we've been working toward this day ever since.''

She was a delight this night.

"I didn't expect to go to the world championships. I am so surprised it happened to me.

''I am so happy just to be here.

"I had no idea how to do pairs skating before I came here. For him it's easy but for me it's not so easy at all.''

I asked her if she knew the words to O Canada just in case she needed them on top of a podium some day soon.

"O Canada. Our home and native land ...'' she stood there and started singing our national anthem.


Videos

Photos