Another title for Buntin, Marcoux

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:53 AM ET

The champs didn't feel like chumps this time.

Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin surveyed the big picture yesterday at the Canadian figure skating championships, and weren't about to let a less-than-perfect pairs free skate spoil the moment.

They're now three-time national champions, a distinction only seven pairs teams can claim since 1940. And, oh yeah, there's that little matter of a ticket to the Turin -- their Olympic debut -- to smile about.

"Three times champions and going to the Olympics ... life ain't bad," said Buntin, 25, of Kelowna, B.C., after he and Marcoux nailed down their triple crown before an audience of 7,249 at the Civic Centre.

"It would have been nicer to do it in true champions' style. But we'll take it and learn from it and we'll peak later on in the season."

Marcoux and Buntin will be joined in Turin by teens Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison, the two-time former world junior champs, who laid down the only clean skate in the final group.

Montreal-based Utako Wakamatsu and Jean-Sebastien Fecteau edged Hull's Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay of Grande Prairie, Alta., by less than a point to take the bronze medal.

Buntin, meanwhile, would like to have back the two jumps he flubbed yesterday.

"Right now, all I want to do is get back out on that ice and do a triple toe and a double Axel," he said. "And I know that's going to carry over to the Olympics. I know when I get on the ice (in Turin), I'm going to do it ... this will not happen there."

"It happens," said Marcoux, 25, of Gatineau. "Sometimes he's on, sometimes I'm on. You just have to be on at the same time. It's not always the easiest thing in pairs skating."

But this certainly wasn't like a year ago in London, when Marcoux and Buntin went home in a funk after struggling through their free skate.

"Last year was a mess," said Buntin.

"This year, it was much better," said Marcoux. "We knew that we had strong (technical) elements.

"Jessica and Bryce had a really strong score, but I knew we were all right because we had a (nearly eight point) lead after the short program. We were just disappointed because it was not what we were hoping for -- when you step on the ice, you always want to do your best, you visualize the best performance, like perfect"

Their margin in the free: A miniscule .04 points. Overall, Marcoux and Buntin finished with 175.48 points, Dube and Davison 167.80.

It was Langlois and Hay sitting second heading into the free program, with an Olympic berth in their sights. But they weren't clean when it counted yesterday, with a couple of botched landings by Langlois knocking them off the podium.

They'll now set their sights on Vancouver 2010. That was always the plan when they joined forces last May, she said.

NOT DISAPPOINTING

"It's not a disappointment," said Langlois, 24, who had potential Canadian titles slip through her hands the past three years with former partner Patrice Archetto.

"Sitting in second after the short was more than we hoped for. It was great. It kind of showed us our potential. I'm just a little upset with myself for making the mistakes that I did. But if I look at the big picture, I think we came out here and delivered two very strong performances this weekend."

Said Hay, 22, of Grande Prairie, Alta.: "Our long-term goal was 2010. We never even thought that Torino would be a possibility for us ... I was fifth in junior pairs last year (with another partner). To be sitting here even with a shot (at the Olympics) is awesome for me."

Instead, it will be Dube and Davison heading off to Italy. Amazing stuff, considering there was some doubt they'd even be here after Dube was injured in a car accident about a month ago.

"It feels excellent. It really hasn't sunk in yet," said Davison, 19, of Cambridge. "We always believed we had an outside shot, that if we did our job and trained hard on and off the ice, it might be possible."

"We're surprised, but we're really happy," said Dube, 18, of St. Cyrille de Wendover, Que. "The crowd was really great and everything was perfect."

The meet ends today with the free dance. Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon are firmly in first place after getting top marks for their original dance. They should win a fourth title.

Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe remained second and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir stayed close behind in the battle for the other Olympic berth in the discipline.

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


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