Don't expect Olympic drama

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

It's the stuff of dreams, the kind of tale Hollywood eats up when it feels the biological urge to release another tear jerker.

You know the story. Skater comes out of nowhere with the performance of his or her life, and goes on to live the Olympic moment they've imagined since they were a little kid.

Skate Canada promises there's still room for such drama this week.

Even though a quick read through the full criteria for selection to the Turin Olympic team might suggest otherwise. You see, it isn't just results from these Canadian figure skating championships that go into the equation. The association also considers international results in the past year, as well as minimum technical standards.

SANDHU CASE

So are we sitting on the potential for a repeat of 1998, when a young dynamo named Emanuel Sandhu surprised everyone by finishing second at Canadians, but wasn't sent to the Nagano Olympics?

Skate Canada CEO Pam Coburn says no.

"It's exactly the same criteria we use for selecting the world team," Coburn said yesterday at the Civic Centre. "There's no difference."

Back in '98, the Canadian Olympic Committee had its own set of criteria on top of Skate Canada's. Basically, any skater who hadn't earned a pair of top six finishes in senior Grand Prix events in the two years before those Hamilton nationals was out of the Olympic loop.

So the Nagano team was basically set before skaters even hit the ice in Steeltown.

And Sandhu, whose international experience that season came at the world junior championships, didn't fit in. But Skate Canada worked to get the secondary criteria off the table before the 2002 Salt Lake Games.

"He had the week of his life (in Hamilton) and we knew immediately after the event he was not eligible to go (to Nagano) based on the criteria with the COC," said Coburn. "We don't ever want to be in that position again, so that's why we removed that secondary requirement.

"We now have a provision in there for any of those 'what if' scenarios."

Truth be told, there isn't anybody on the radar screen at the moment who won't fit all of Skate Canada's current Olympic selection criteria. Protocol figures to be followed, and the Turin team will be announced Sunday after the competition concludes.

"We are going to have to wait to see what happens (on the ice). That's part of the decision we have to make," said Coburn. "We want to send the best team to the Olympics and to worlds."

BIG AMBITIONS

It is a team that will head to Italy with big ambitions.

With 11 medals banked on the Grand Prix circuit in the fall -- including a best-ever five gold -- Skate Canada isn't wavering on its goal of four combined medals at the Olympics and ensuing world championships in Calgary.

"We continue to believe our goals are within reach," said Coburn.

WAITING GAME: Just what a guy needs -- fast action from a government department when we're in the middle of an election campaign. But that's the situation facing Moscow-born ice dancer Arseniy Markov, who is still waiting for his Canadian citizenship papers to go through. Without them, Markov and his Minto Skating Club ice dance partner Chantal Lefebvre can't represent Canada at the Turin Olympics (they are eligible to wear the red maple leaf at the world championships and other ISU events). Skate Canada has written letters on Markov's behalf, but the wheels continue to grind slowly. "We're doing everything that we can, and I know Arseniy is following up as much as possible," said Gayle McClelland, Skate Canada's chief athlete development officer. "We're waiting for Citizenship and Immigration to finalize his file. We know the file is open, it's just a matter of when they decide to give him the passport." Lefebvre and Markov are among the contenders for one of Canada's two ice dance berths in Turin.

TRIPLE CROWN TALK: Three-time Canadian champions ... it's a possibility Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin are still getting used to thinking about. "It's strange," Buntin, 25, of Kelowna, B.C., said about the distinction they can earn by week's end. "Something like that is always a goal, but when you say it, it's almost surreal." Added Marcoux, 25, of Gatineau: "It's an amazing feeling to think about that." Only six pairs teams since 1940 have won at least three national senior crowns. The record is five. "Hopefully, we'll be able to say we won who knows how many more before we're done," said Buntin.

HALIFAX UP NEXT: Skate Canada announced yesterday the Canadian championships are headed east to Halifax in 2007. Dates for the event at the 10,000-seat Metro Centre are Jan.15-21. The Nova Scotia capital last welcomed the senior nationals in 2005.


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