Canucks not star struck

Canadians Bryce Davison, left, and Jessica Dube practice their routine yesterday in preparation for...

Canadians Bryce Davison, left, and Jessica Dube practice their routine yesterday in preparation for today's events. (Calgary Sun/Kevin Udahl)

ANGELA MACISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

They may be the medal favourites but the Chinese pairs are just regular folk to their Canadian counterparts.

Canadian champions Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin and runners-up Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison, were lumped into the same practice group with the Chinese for the ISU world figure skating championships this week.

Just the little Canadians and the great Chinese.

But the kids representing the Maple Leaf didn't bat an eye.

"We've been skating with them for years," said Buntin, a Kelowna native who moved east to Ontario in search of a partner. "It's so funny, because as big as they've gotten in the eyes of the audience and the skating world, they're still the same guys who run around and stick their tongues out as they go by."

Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang, silver medallists at the Winter Olympics last month in Turin, are the hands-down favourites heading into today's short program (2:30 p.m., Saddledome).

Since bronze medallists Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao pulled out due to Zhao's nagging Achilles tendon injury, fourth-place finishers Qing Pang and Jian Tong are next in line.

The Canadian kids aren't considered contenders.

Marcoux and Buntin, competing at their third world championships, still felt as if they're on a learning curve.

Especially after a troublesome Olympics, where they finished 11th -- one spot behind Dube and Davison.

"We saw that at the Olympics," said Buntin. "Jeremy Wotherspoon was ninth and he was supposed to win. I talked to him afterwards about where his season and career has gone.

"He said 'I came into this competition and this is what I've learned and this is where I'm going.' It really sounded like us and it's good to see that in other athletes."

Marcoux said she put too much pressure on herself in Turin.

"It was like a dream," said the 25-year-old from Ottawa. "I wanted to step on the ice and every edge had to be perfect, every element -- I doubted myself. I missed one thing and then you don't trust yourself.

"I was really upset, because I missed jumps and throws which is not something I miss often."

But worlds are more like home.

They've finished ninth the last two years.

"This is more relaxed and it doesn't feel like the biggest competition of the year," said Buntin.

It isn't quite old hat for Dube and Davison. After taking silver at the last two world juniors, this is their first senior worlds.

And their confidence is soaring after the Olympics, where they skated two solid programs.

"It was an incredible experience," said Davison, an American by birth.

"I think we got everything we wanted out of it. We're looking forward to the next four years (leading up to Vancouver 2010)."

Added Dube: "The placement wasn't really a goal. We wanted to be in top 12 but we wanted to skate good and gain experience."


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