It's already Valentine's day in London

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:00 PM ET

LONDON, ONT. -- Mandy Valentine is taking home more than just a medal from her first Canadian figure skating championships. "It was just a whole big learning experience," said Valentine, 14, who represents the Nepean Skating Cup.

"I can definitely take away a lot of things that will help me in the future."

Valentine, last year's national novice champion, wound up with a bronze medal following yesterday's junior women's free skate final -- her first foray into the junior ranks.

Her free program was a bit of a struggle. After opening with an impressive triple toe-double loop-double loop sequence, Valentine had a rough day with her triple Salchow. She made three attempts at it before landing one cleanly in the final seconds.

"I'm not quite sure what was going on with it. It's too bad," she said. "Unfortunately, it wasn't my best performance.

"It could have been a lot worse. I gave it my best. I'm very happy with a bronze medal my first time. I'm on the junior national team. I can just be thankful for the opportunity."

The 57.20 points she scored yesterday gave Valentine a 95.73-point total, enough to hold off Marie-Christine Grenier of Sherbrooke, Que., (93.90) for the bronze. The gold went to another Quebecker, Amelie Lacoste of Delson, who hit triple figures with a 110.50 total. Vancouver's Tanika Gibbons (106.72) won the silver.

Valentine gained inspiration Friday night, when she watched Joannie Rochette of Ile-Dupas, Que., win the senior women's title with one of the best free skates in Canadian history.

"Phenomenal. Just incredible," said Valentine, who considered moving to Montreal last summer to train with Rochette. "She's a great role model for a lot of younger skaters like myself."

Next up for Valentine: Working on filling out the rest of her jump arsenal at her training base in Rochester, Mich. She'd like to have a triple lutz and triple loop ready for next season.

She isn't sure whether she'll chase the junior gold at next season's nationals in Ottawa or move up to senior.

"We're not sure yet ... We have to see how the summer goes and how my jumps are going," said Valentine."Right now, I'm just concentrating on improving my skating skills, not thinking about results for next year."

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


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