Pair worlds away from Turin

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

CALGARY -- Their Olympic disappointment is clearly in the rearview mirror now.

Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin are back on home soil, aiming to put a positive spin on the final drive of their figure skating season.

"Every day feels better and better," Marcoux said yesterday after their brisk workout at the Pengrowth Saddledome, where the 2006 world figure skating championships get started this morning. "We're more than ready for this event.

"It gives us an opportunity to finish the year on a good note."

There wasn't enough of that for Marcoux's liking at last month's Turin Winter Games. The 25-year-old Gatineau native made a few uncharacteristic mistakes -- for her, at least -- during the free program, and the three-time Canadian champs wound up 11th in their Olympic debut.

They'd hoped to better their ninth-place standing at the past two world championships, but instead found themselves one spot behind Canada's No. 2 team in Turin, Bryce Davison and Jessica Dube.

Marcoux was almost inconsolable after the Olympic free skate, but the smile is back on her face here in Calgary.

"I think we beat ourselves (in Turin)," said Marcoux. "We didn't do what we should have out there ... we didn't skate our best.

"Especially me, I put too much pressure on myself. I made it so big. For me, it was like a dream. When I stepped out on the ice, every edge had to be perfect, every element. I didn't feel that stressed. I doubted myself. I missed one thing and then you don't trust yourself.

"Overall, when I think back on it, I did some good things. But on the day, I was really upset. I missed some jumps and throws, which are not things that I miss often."

They'll try a more relaxed approach this week at the Saddledome.

"Mentally, we're over (the Olympics) and we're really ready for these world championships," said Marcoux.

"This is our third world championships," said Buntin, 25, of Kelowna, B.C..

'LIKE COMING HOME'

"It feels now like it's something that's part of our yearly routine. Coming off the Olympics, this just feels like coming home. It's definitely more relaxed."

The worlds begin today with the pairs short program, sandwiched in between two groups of men's qualifying. Olympic silver medalists Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang of China are the favourites here, with countrymen Qing Pang and Jian Tong also in the middle mix with 2005 world silver medalists Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov of Russia.

WORLDS SCUTTLE BUTTLE: Unlike Turin champ Evgeni Plushenko of Russia, who isn't here, Canadian champ Jeffrey Buttle never gave a thought to skipping these worlds and said he would have gone even if the event wasn't at home. "I still feel getting to go is an honour," said the Olympic bronze medallist. And he'll feel no need to apologize if he wins in Plushenko's absence. "The world champion will be the one who shows up and puts down the performance on the night it counts. If (others) don't show up, it's their loss." Buttle, by the way, landed a quad in practice Saturday -- the jump he might need to dethrone reigning world champ Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland.


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