Heavy medal dreaming

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:40 PM ET

Four years later, the grandest of dreams has never seemed so close to fruition.

Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon haven't wavered on the thought, not even for a moment. That they would stand on the podium at the 2006 Winter Olympics, proudly wearing bronze medals while the Canadian flag rose to the rafters at the Torino Palavela. A rousing moment, to be sure -- considering Canada has only won one ice-dance medal at the Olympics -- Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall in

Now here it is, a mere five weeks away, the Games the Montreal couple has been waiting for the past four years of their lives. It all seems so sudden, so fast.

"I can't believe four years have gone by since Salt Lake City," said Dubreuil, 31. "Having the chance to go with the national team to Torino in September (for a training camp) and skating on the Olympic ice and seeing the (athletes') village and imagining it ... it felt so perfect and natural to be there.

"It's still our dream and goal to be on the podium at these Olympics."

Even nine months ago, that seemed like an impossible dream. Dubreuil and Lauzon finished seventh at the world championships in Moscow, a gain of only one spot over the 2004 Dortmund worlds.

To move up four more places in one year? And in ice dance?

Like we said, impossible.

But here Dubreuil and Lauzon are, fresh off a third-place finish at the Grand Prix final. And very much in the running for a podium spot.

Credit the new 'code of points' judging system -- in which movement from segment to segment is much more volatile than in the bad old days of ice dance -- with a serious assist. The new scoring system was developed in the wake of the judging scandal at the 2002 Olympics.

MAGICAL FREE DANCE

When the story of Dubreuil and Lauzon is finally told following what is likely their final season of eligible skating, everything will point to the magical free dance that says so much about who they are.

The program isn't just another skater's take on Somewhere in Time, the romantic piece at the centre of their free dance. Rather, it is about the deep love the three-time Canadian champions have for each other.

Love that has carried them through the past four years, after they packed their bags in 2002 and moved to Lyon, France, to train and make their dream come true.

It will likely become their signature piece, if it hasn't already.

"We've had many programs that we love," said Dubreuil. "But this one, there's something special about it."

That's precisely what choreographer David Wilson -- with no previous experience crafting a free dance program -- hoped to build around two skaters he greatly admires.

"We knew we wanted it to be about love, particularly their love for each other," said Wilson. "It's really about them. They truly do love each other, and it's a beautiful thing."

SWEPT AWAY BY EMOTION

Audiences, like Dubreuil and Lauzon themselves, have been swept away by the emotion of it all. They tell the skaters they wish it could last so much longer, that it seems like only a 21/2-minute program, not four.

"Time flies when we perform it," said Dubreuil. "People seem to enjoy the connection between us, and this unexplainable thing they say we have between us when we look at each other and dance with each other."

Even better, it's been a winning program. Dubreuil and Lauzon struck gold at both Grand Prix events they entered (Skate Canada and NHK Trophy), setting the stage for their breakthrough in the series final in Tokyo.

"That was what we wanted, two Grand Prix (wins), at the time we set our goals in May," said Dubreuil. "We thought it might be a little ambitious, but why not, let's work in that direction."

All of which has them on the verge of achieving the biggest goal of them all, the one they so boldly set after placing 12th at the Salt Lake Games.

"Marie-France told me right off the bat their goal was to win a bronze medal (in Turin)," said Wilson. "It's really started to look as if that's feasible ... I'm just blown away by them."

Said Dubreuil: "We keep doing what we do, trying to do our best every time we skate. I really do think it's possible."

THE FACTS

- Event: Senior ice dance

- When to watch: Compulsories -- Thursday, 12:45 p.m.; Original dance -- Saturday, 12:10 p.m.; Free dance -- Sunday, 10:30 a.m.

- TV: Saturday -- 7-9 p.m., CTV; Sunday -- 1 p.m., CTV

- Defending champions: Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, Montreal

- Olympic/world team berths: Two

- Capital content: Mylene Girard, Repentigny, Que., and Brad Yaeger, Ottawa; Siobhan Karam and Joshua McGrath, Ottawa; Chantal Lefebvre and Arseniy Markov, Montreal (represent Minto Skating Club)

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


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