Valentine's day leaves her in 10th in juniors

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

A tune from U2 greeted Ottawa figure skater Mandy Valentine when she warmed up yesterday at the Canadian championships.

She was much too in the zone to notice Bono singing, "She moves in mysterious ways," while skating around the ice, waiting for the previous competitor's marks to be announced.

But after completing her junior women's short program, she tried to make sense of just what those moves had accomplished.

Valentine sits in the middle of the pack, ranked 10th in the group of 21 skaters, with Saturday's free program to come.

"I'm glad I made the best of the situation," said the 15-year-old Nepean Skating Club member. "There were a few minor errors, but I have to forget about those and move on to my long program."

Last year, Valentine finished third at the nationals and hopes to get closer to a top-five finish following her free skate. She'd like to accomplish that in her home town with so many friends and relatives watching from the Civic Centre seats.

"It's just as hard as any other competition. You try to block out all your nervousness and use the (crowd) to your advantage," she said.

"Of course, it's always a stressful situation going out there, especially in a national competition. You just try to focus on yourself and try to get in your own zone."

Annie Claire Bergeron-Oliver of the Minto Skating Club placed 11th yesterday, while Nepean's Brooke Paulin was 15th.

Last year, Valentine moved to Detroit to train at the Onyx Skating Academy and work under coach Richard Callaghan, who has guided the careers of world champions Todd Eldredge and Tara Lipinski.

But she moved back to Ottawa and attends high school at Canterbury while training out of Nepean.

"Financially, it was a big deal," Valentine said of living in suburban Detroit for her training. "I still try to go back as often as I can."

Bergeron-Oliver, meanwhile, fought through a cold during her performance, but received support from her hometown fans.

"It's the senior nationals, you're in the big leagues and it's at home. You feel like everyone's watching you," she said.

The 16-year-old competed in pre-novice last year and finished sixth in the country, but skipped the novice class to be in junior this season.

"I felt I should give myself something to work toward over the year," said Bergeron-Oliver, who's coached by her mother, Anne-Marie.

Her father is broadcast journalist Craig Oliver, the chief political correspondent with CTV News.

SZMIETT TOPS FIELD

Diane Szmiett of Watford placed first in the junior women's short. Natalie Kwong of Richmond Hill and Kathryn Kang of North Vancouver, B.C., rounded out the top three.

In junior dance, Allie Hann-McCurdy of Orleans and Michael Coreno of Delhi hold a commanding lead after the original program.

"Clean and just high energy, and we felt like we performed it really well," Hann-McCurdy said of their performance.

Hann-McCurdy and Coreno have an eight-point lead on Mylene Lamoureux of St-Eustache, Que., and Michael Mee of Montreal.

Andrea Chong of Toronto and Spencer Barnes of Pickering are third heading into tomorrow's free program.


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