New partner lifts Langlois

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:25 AM ET

Anabelle Langlois couldn't have been more relaxed as she discussed her prospects at the Canadian figure skating championships this week.

Then again, for the first time in four years, the weight of expectations is almost completely off her shoulders. And yes, she's perfectly happy to say so.

"It was always, 'Are you going to win, are you going to win now?' " Langlois, 24, of Hull, said of her experience at the last three nationals.

"It is funny to not be in those shoes anymore ... It's kind of a nice change."

Though they ranked as high as No. 5 on the world stage, Langlois and former partner Patrice Archetto never got it done at the Canadians. Three straight years, they flamed out in the free program with the title theirs for the taking. Strike three a year ago in London signaled the end of their partnership.

"It was a great honour that people also thought me and Patrice should win," said Langlois. "I think a lot of it is the way we would see it. We would let other people put that pressure on us. At any other competition, we always wanted to do great, but nationals we wanted to win.

"In skating, it's not like a sprint. It's not the first one to the finish line. You can't think of winning until you've done your program. You need to do your performance one step at a time."

Her new partner, Cody Hay, would surely agree. He's made extraordinary progress in his first year as a senior skater.

"At first, it was a huge adjustment," said Hay, 22, of Grande Prairie, Alta. "I kind of got thrown right into the deep end of the pool. But with Lee (coach Barkell), and with Anabelle's experience, it definitely sped up my progress more than I expected."

Despite being together only since May, the Barrie-based duo has improved to the point that they're being talked about as dark horses to land one of Canada's two available pairs berths for the Turin Olympics next month. Gatineau's Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin of Kelowna, B.C., are favoured to win their third straight title.

"Everybody's asking us, 'Are you trying to make the Olympic team?' We'd be stupid to say no," said Langlois. "There are three or four teams who have a really good shot at taking that second spot for the Olympics and definitely it's a goal of ours. But at the same time ... we only started together in May. If we don't make the (Olympic) team this year, it's not a failure."

Then again, Langlois and Hay are in this for the long haul, with the 2010 Vancouver Games their ultimate target. Langlois considered about10 possible new partners, but knows she's found the one to keep her going in the sport.

'JUST CLICKED'

"If I couldn't have found a partnership that I could have faith in, I wouldn't have kept skating," she said. "(With the others), it just didn't feel right, it didn't feel natural. But with Cody, it just clicked.

"I think it's because we were friends for such a long time (in Edmonton, her former training base). He just shares the same love for skating that I do, and it puts things in a whole different perspective when we're on the ice."

Competition begins with the short program tonight. The free skate final is Saturday.

AT A GLANCE

- What: Canadian figure skating championships.

- Where: Civic Centre.

- Today's events: 9:30 a.m. -- junior men's free skate; 12:45 p.m. -- senior dance compulsories; 3:45 p.m. -- senior women's short program; 7:30 p.m. -- senior pairs short program.

- Tickets: Ticketmaster, 755-1111, or www.ticketmaster.ca.


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