Gatineau's golden girl

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:01 PM ET

LONDON, ONT. -- Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin couldn't hide their disappointment. Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto were downright depressed.

But at least one pair is heading to the world figure skating championships as the best in Canada.

It's Gatineau's Marcoux and Buntin, of North Vancouver, wearing the title for the second straight year after a senior pairs free skate final at the Canadian figure skating championships that hardly rated as stellar.

Drama? Well, at least there was that.

Certainly, Buntin and Marcoux didn't offer up a repeat of their exhilarating free skate of a year ago in Edmonton, when they were surprising gold medallists.

They nearly collided after flubbing side-by-side triple toe loops yesterday, and seemed to lack any of their usual crispness or flair throughout.

"To be winners, it feels good," said Buntin, 24. "To perform like that doesn't feel so good ... I think we were skating with somebody else's legs out there."

They were convinced they hadn't even done enough to secure one of Canada's two pairs spots for the world championships in March in Moscow.

"I thought we would be lucky to make the world team," said Marcoux, 24.

Added Buntin: "We were third in our minds when we got off. We watched everyone else on TV and even as they were skating, we had our doubts. It's a shame because we were skating so well up to this point. We have no excuses for skating like that."

Call it another case of nerves that have stricken defending champions this week. But unlike Cynthia Phaneuf, the Montreal-based duo hung onto their crown with a 172.67-point total. They won the free skate (112.46).

"All week we wanted to defend (our title), so we were more nervous this week than we were last year," said Marcoux. "Last year, we skated better -- we knew we did enough.

"There was a better feeling winning last year."

Meanwhile, it's another year without the elusive Canadian title for Langlois, 23, of Hull, and Montrealer Archetto, 32, and who knows what's next.

This time, the feeling was worse -- they tumbled to third and failed to make the world team.

Langlois botched both of her triple jump elements, and that was pretty much it. There was no consoling her afterward.

"Way beyond disappointment at this point. I'm angry at myself," said Langlois, who was set back by a mysterious virus back in the fall. "It just shocked me when I fell. I don't know (what happened). I wish I knew.

"I felt really sorry for Pat."

She was spotted the night before holding an ice pack on her head after the two knocked noggins practising a twist.

"It knocked me out a bit," she said. "I was fine (yesterday). Not at all the reason I skated this way. There is no reason."

Now they'll head back to their Edmonton training base to assess their future.

Instead, it will be Utako Wakamatsu and Jean-Sebastien Fecteau joining Marcoux and Buntin -- their training partners in St-Leonard, Que. -- at the worlds. They enthralled the John Labatt Centre audience with several unique lifts in a program that was worth 106.19 points.

With a 165.76 total, they edged Langlois and Archetto (162.92) by less than three points.

"Amazing. I can't describe it," said Fecteau, 29, who considered himself retired when he and former partner Valerie Saurette failed to make the 2002 Olympic team.

"It was a big disappointment that year coming fifth (at Canadians). It was one of my worst performances as a skater."

Then-coach Richard Gauthier discovered Wakamatsu during a trip to Japan. She wanted to come to Canada to skate pairs and the rest, as they say, is history.

"I'm just surprised we can go to worlds," said a disbelieving Wakamatsu, 23, who dissolved into tears after their free skate. "This is not happening to me."

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


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