Joey Russell literally came from out of nowhere to win a national figure skating title.
Born and raised in isolated Labrador City, Nfld., some 400 km north of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the 17-year-old sensation nailed his free program yesterday and captured the junior men's championship at the Civic Centre.
Landing five triple jumps, Russell moved up from third after Tuesday's short program to become one of the few national figure-skating champions from The Rock.
Russell didn't expect to receive a phone call from Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams, but was nonetheless elated with yesterday's result.
"I was just so pleased," said Russell, who put in extra practice getting ready for this year's nationals. "To skate a program like that is good and it's what I expected.
"But you never know what could happen and I guess it happened the right way."
He's from a town of some 9,000 inhabitants. The nearest large community accessible by road is Baie-Comeau, Que., located some 480 km to the southwest.
"It's like a very small mining community and they've been so supportive throughout my whole career," he said.
Russell scored 150.93 points, 1.72 more than Jeremy Ten of Vancouver.
Kingston native and fan favourite Jamie Forsythe finished third (136.54), his highest placing at a national event.
"I'm relieved that it's over," said the 18-year-old Forsythe, who fought through a cold to earn his spot on the podium. "I've done my job, and now I get to watch the rest of the event and be nervous for (the other skaters) as well."
Forsythe was fourth after Tuesday's short program, but moved up a notch after performing a long program that ranked fourth among the 20 competitors.
Karolin Metivier of St-Victor, Que., led after the short program but faltered yesterday, dropping to fifth.