Marcoux, Buntin in medal hunt

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

CALGARY -- They came home from Turin wiser for the experience, but discouraged by the way their Olympic debut played out.

Now here Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin are, a mere three weeks later, sitting on the verge of the breakthrough result of their skating careers.

The two-time Canadian champions stole the show last night at the Pengrowth Saddledome, riding their best short program of the season to a fourth-place standing at the world figure skating championships.

Even more impressive: Marcoux and Buntin, who've never been higher than ninth at the global event, are a mere 0.38 points out of the medals heading into tomorrow night's free skate final. This from a team which placed a disappointing 11th at the Turin Games.

"You know, this sport is a rollercoaster," said Buntin, 25, of Kelowna, B.C. "To go from so low three weeks ago to where we are right now ... I don't think we're going to change our strategy for the long (program). We're just going to get out there and be comfortable, and just try to enjoy the experience."

'WE DON'T GIVE UP'

Said Marcoux, 25, of Gatineau: "We went back on the ice (last night) and we went for it. Every time we practise, we try. We don't give up. I think that's paying off today."

It did last night, right from the spot-on side-by-side triple toe loops that got a near-flawless performance started. By the end of it, they had the flag-waving audience at the Saddledome on its feet.

Marcoux and Buntin (62.66) sit right behind Russia's Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov (63.04), last year's world silver medallists. The Chinese occupy the top two spots: Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang (65.58) lead by a hair over Qing Pang and Jiang Tong (64.98).

Can Marcoux and Buntin make a push for the first world pairs medal by a Canadian team since Jamie Sale and David Pelletier won in 2001?

"I think we have enough experience now as far as our performances go that we know what we need to do," said Buntin.

Canada's No. 2 team, Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison, placed seventh with 58.81 points.


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