Pair of dreamers

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

Their four-year plan is nearing its glorious finish.

But Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin have their nerves in check as they approach the pinnacle of their competitive figure skating careers.

"It's a long time, four years," said Marcoux, 25, of Gatineau, as she pondered the 2006 Turin Olympics -- the event that's been their major goal since teaming up as a pairs skating team in 2002. "We're really hoping to do the Olympics. We've been training hard for it."

The road begins tomorrow night, when the two-time Canadian champions perform their new short program at MasterCard Skate Canada at Mile One Stadium in St. John's.

The free skate final is Friday.

It's one of two Grand Prix series events for Marcoux and Buntin this season -- the other is Trophee Eric Bompard, Nov. 17-20 in Paris -- but the big show comes in January.

That's the BMO Financial Group Canadian championships, set for Jan. 9-15 at the Civic Centre. It's the week when she and Buntin will learn whether Turin becomes reality for them.

As two-time defending champs, they're prime candidates to land one of two Canadian pairs berths for both the Olympics and ensuing world championships in Calgary. But Marcoux and Buntin are doing their best to ignore any target that might be on their backs.

PRESSURE OFF

"Our basic approach this season is not to worry about any kind of stress or pressure or anything negative," said Buntin, 25, of North Vancouver, B.C.

"We've basically just said we've been together four years now, so when we go on the ice, let's be confident, be relaxed and be comfortable and let our skating take over and not force anything."

Said Marcoux: "It's just a matter of us wanting to do it, to perform (well) at nationals when it's time to qualify."

Their short program will be skated to Hey Big Spender, a piece from the musical Sweet Charity. Marcoux and Buntin even went to New York to see the Broadway show, which stars Christina Applegate, just to get in the mood.

"It's basically everything that a musical should be," said Buntin. "We get out, we have a good time, we dance and hope the crowd comes along with us."

They'd like it even more if Canadians had reason to cheer for them in Italy in February. Marcoux has spent most of a lifetime thinking about it.

"Since (the time) you start skating, I think it's a dream for every little kid, every athlete," she said. "For sure, you think about it more when you're grown up and you see it's possible that you can do it.

"But I don't remember not dreaming about that. It's just part of being a little kid skating."

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


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