Never say die

ANGLEA MACISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

Emanuel Sandhu knows he has what it takes to win a world figure skating title. But all the talent in the world hasn't helped so far. Like a phoenix, though, the

25-year-old British Columbian keeps rising from the ashes to try again.

"I don't think a medal this week will define my career, because I have lots of medals and I've had a lot of great moments," Sandhu said yesterday, following the afternoon practice for the ISU world championships at the Saddledome.

"I think everybody wants to see me get a medal, I suppose, but I hate to speculate on that. I've never been one to sit down and say I want to do this, this and this. I know I have the talent and the goods. But I know in order to medal, I have ... to have that confidence, that ease."

It's difficult to imagine Sandhu being able to recover any confidence after watching him self-destruct on the ice last month in Turin. Just as he has at past world championships.

He was seventh after the short program at the Winter Olympics, opening with a stellar quadruple-triple toe loop combination, but plummeted to 13th after a disastrous free skate.

The three-time national champion, deposed from his throne the last two years by Jeffrey Buttle, fell on two jumps and popped a couple more.

"It was great going into the competition," said Sandhu, shyly admitting he was struggling with problems with his skate blades. "When I got (to Turin), it went off, so my confidence was shot.

"It's one thing to do a triple Axel in practice but I would do one and pop four. I was thinking about my blades and I didn't have that consistent feeling. So my confidence level on that jump was basically next to zero."

And it snowballed.

If he could do it all again, he'd try to put a little less pressure on himself.

"I think I made it too monumental and that's something I promised myself I wouldn't do that at the beginning of the year," Sandhu said. "I made it too much of a win-or-lose situation."

Before the Olympics, he knew a medal was within his reach and, since it slipped out of his grasp, he's been spending more time with his sports psychologist.

He is also trying to build a better bond with his coach, Joanne McLeod.

"I have to focus on the process, as my psychologist says, instead of the outcome," Sandhu said. "So I'm trying to have fun with it. Iim trying to listen to my coach, have a good rapport and lean on her a bit more. We have to work together as a team. If it's a well-oiled machine, it works better."

Training has been going better as a result.

Especially since he was able to do some goal-setting for the world championships.

Sandhu is no longer considered a contender. He finds himself ranked behind defending champion and Olympic silver medallist Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland and Buttle.

Maybe underdog status could be good for him.

"I could say the pressure is what you put on yourself but I don't know," Sandhu said. "I haven't been looking at (worlds) that way. I've just been focusing on my practice and doing what I need to do to be comfortable."

With any luck, he'll get into that elusive zone at the Saddledome, where men's qualifying takes place tomorrow at 9:15 a.m. and 7 p.m. Opening ceremonies are at 2 p.m., followed by the pairs short program at 2:35 p.m.

He may find it, somewhere between imagining himself as the only person in the building or feeding off the energy of a supportive Canadian fan base.

"I think it's a little of both," he said, managing a bashful smile. "For me, it's trying to get the big tricks out of the way and then staying in that moment."


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