Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto knew it was over the second the music ended.
That the disappointing free skate they had laid down at the Canadian figure skating championships would be their farewell as a pairs team.
Langlois, 23, of Hull, and Archetto, 32, of Montreal, made it official yesterday, announcing their partnership is over after seven years. Their bronze-medal finish at nationals in London, Ont., which ended a three-year run on Canada's world team, was the clincher.
"Pat kind of made the decision when we got off the ice (after the free skate)," Langlois told the Sun yesterday. "But we decided we would come home and talk about it first. We took a few days, cooled our heads, and decided it would be for the best (to end it)."
"Both of us, especially me, have high standards. We won't settle for anything less. We knew if it wasn't going to get better, then we were not going to keep going."
In truth, the partnership was probably doomed on New Year's Day, when Langlois informed Archetto their off-ice romance was over. He said seeing his on-ice partner as an ex-girlfriend was painful to take.
"I didn't want it to end," Archetto told the Edmonton Sun. "It was hard to go on training and see her every day. To still go on skating would have been too hard on me.
"To be in love and see her every day and watch her go out with somebody else ... I couldn't do it. It was too tough to do it for just a few weeks."
Langlois admitted the end nearly came a year ago after the 2004 Dortmund worlds, where they finished eighth.
"It was inevitable that it was going to happen," she said. "It wasn't great at the end. Our hearts just weren't in it together."
Two years ago, their future looked bright in so many ways. They had finished fifth at the world championships in Washington, and had visions of a medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics. But their inability to become champions in their own country -- they were silver medallists in 2003 and 2004, despite being favourites to win both times -- seemed to drag the couple down.
"They were always Canada's best couple internationally (since 2003)," said Jan Ullmark, the coach they moved to Edmonton to train with three years ago. "But they needed to win the (national) championship to feel that."
Said Langlois: "We always had the stuff. We just never pulled it together at nationals. It's not what you can do, it's when you do it. That's the biggest part of the game."
Langlois admitted breaking up a year before Turin was tough, but the medal just wasn't going to happen. After a 12th-place finish in the scandal-ridden Olympic pairs event in 2002, they weren't willing to go just as participants this time.
"The Olympics are the most important thing for me in my life," said Langlois. "We've been to the Olympics, and our goal was to be on the podium at this one. But we definitely weren't going to get there."
While Archetto plans to pursue a firefighting career -- probably in Montreal -- Langlois is searching for a new partner. At 23, she isn't ready to quit yet, but will head back to school if she can't find someone with world-class ability.
"(Retiring) would be sad for me, because I adore skating," she said. "I still feel I have a lot to give to the skating public ... I haven't reached my full potential."
NOTE: Ottawa's Fedor Andreev and Brad Yaeger will be among Canada's team at the Four Continents meet Feb. 14-20 in South Korea. Andreev will be one of three Canadians competing in the men's singles, while Yaeger will team with Mylene Girard of Repentigny , Que., in ice dance.