Mabee back in the running

Ryan Pyette

, Last Updated: 4:28 AM ET

KITCHENER -- Welcome back to the world junior figure skating championships, Christopher Mabee.

Pumping his fist in joy and placing a hand over his heart to acknowledge a standing ovation, the 19-year-old Tillsonburg native roared back from a horrible qualifying round to skate a thrilling short program and climb among the leading men yesterday afternoon at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.

Mabee, who endured the unenviable task of skating first in the entire field, looked nothing like the non-confident boy who fumbled and tripped his way to barely qualifying with a 14th-place finish in his group and 27th overall on Wednesday.

Now he's in ninth spot heading into this afternoon's free skate and will be in the 14th slot. He finds himself within striking distance of a medal if he pulls off a superb long program.

"This was all about rebounding after qualifying and putting that performance behind me," he said.

Mabee caught a break this week because this is the first time qualifying marks haven't carried over at the world junior competition. If they did, he would be in no position for a top-five finish.

"They weren't the marks I expected," he said. His score of 54.78 was considerably less than his personal-best of 59.46. "To me, this is a brand new competition."

In the short, he turned a triple toe-loop into a double and used some body English to save another triple toe from going awry. Overall, it was vintage Mabee, who has the ability to forge an emotional connection with a crowd that only the best and brightest ice stars possess.

Sobbing after his skate on Wednesday, Mabee returned to his normal, affable personality yesterday. He credited an hour-long phone chat with Toronto-based sports psychologist Sandra Starc for helping him achieve a more competitive state of being.

"We just tried to figure where my mind was at and change it completely. We didn't want any feelings carrying over from qualifying."

The arrival of Mariposa School of Skating boss Doug Leigh was another boost.

"Speechless -- I was completely surprised," Leigh said of Mabee's breakdown Wednesday. "He had been training so well for the past couple of months."

Leigh was impressed with Mabee's quick recovery -- never an easy task in high-stakes international sport where small disappointments can be devastating.

"It's a sign of maturity. He's becoming a pro."

Frenchman Yannick Ponsero, who choreographs his own routines and picks his own music, won the short program with 64.90 points.

He has a slight lead over the entertaining Nobunari Oda who is in second at 64.33.

Ponsero plans to unleash his quad jump, which he has landed three times in competitions, in the long program.

Fourteen-year-old Toronto native Patrick Chan, who shone in qualifying and is the youngest competitor in the event, finished 11th, nearly three points behind Mabee.


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