Time to put pedal to the medals

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:00 AM ET

Canada's best figure skaters are in prime position to bring home at least a pair of gold medals from the Turin Olympics.

Skate Canada officially named the team yesterday it will nominate to the Canadian Olympic Committee for participation in the Feb. 10-26 Games in Italy. It is a group the governing body believes has at least three serious medal contenders -- national men's champion Jeffrey Buttle of Smooth Rock Falls and silver medalist Emanuel Sandhu of Richmond Hill, and ice dance champs Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon of Montreal.

According to the COC's Own The Podium plan, figure skating is expected to produce one medal in Turin. Buttle, the reigning world silver medalist, is considered Canada's best hope at the Games.

"One looked like the right number," said Skate Canada CEO Pam Coburn. "But I think we have the potential for two medals at the Olympics."

ON YOUNG SIDE

The team of 13 is on the young side in terms of both age and experience. It includes three teenagers -- Mira Leung and the pairs team of Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison -- and its average age is 24.

That's including Dubreuil, Lauzon and fellow ice dancers Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe, all at least 30.

Capital content is provided by Valerie Marcoux of Gatineau, who teamed up with Craig Buntin of Kelowna, B.C., to win a third straight senior pairs title at this week's Canadian figure skating championships.

The same team will represent Canada at the world championships, March 20-26 in Calgary.

"I think it's a great team," said Buttle. "I know that everyone on it has worked hard to be on it and everyone on it wanted it badly. It's a fairly young team and that's great."

Lowe, the national team captain, has no doubt figure skating will do its part to boost Canada's medal count in Turin.

"I think we have a great chance," he said. "We have two amazing men that, on the day, could both be on the podium. We have a dance team that's going to be pushing for a medal."

For the three teens, the Games represent an essential table setter for future Olympic participation.

"It's going to give them an opportunity to get the Olympic experience," said Coburn. "It's a tremendous opportunity for Mira and the team of Dube and Davison."

Said Buttle, a first-time Olympian himself: "They skated for it. They went out there and truly put down the performances that enabled them to be on the team, regardless of age. I think it's great."

While team selection wasn't based entirely on the results this week at the Civic Centre, the performances on the ice made it unnecessary for Skate Canada to deviate from its final protocol.

Skate Canada spent $150,000 in October to bring its entire national team to the Olympic venue for a one-week training camp.

"It was a lot of money to fork out, but I think everyone in the long run is going to be better for it," said Lowe.

The long-range target: Three medals at the Vancouver 2010 Games.

At least one expert sees that the skaters are buying into the program.

"We have a lot of skilled athletes who have a vision about who they are and how they can step up to become some of the best in the world," said CTV/TSN analyst Debbi Wilkes, a former Olympic silver medallist.

"I like the way they're looking beyond just being the best in Canada, and looking at what it takes to step on the podium (at the world and Olympic level)."

OLYMPIC TEAM

Canada's team for the Turin Games, as nominated yesterday by Skate Canada to the Canadian Olympic Committee:

MEN

Jeffrey Buttle, Smooth Rock Falls; Emanuel Sandhu, Richmond Hill;

Shawn Sawyer, Edmundston, N.B.

WOMEN

Joannie Rochette, Ile-Dupas, Que.; Mira Leung, Vancouver

PAIRS

Valerie Marcoux, Gatineau, and Craig Buntin, Kelowna, B.C.; Jessica Dube, St. Cyrille de Wendover, Que., and Bryce Davison, Cambridge

ICE DANCE

Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, Montreal; Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe, Vancouver


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