Sandhu roars back

Canadian figure skater Emanuel Sandhu puts on a show Tuesday at the worlds, skating a powerful...

Canadian figure skater Emanuel Sandhu puts on a show Tuesday at the worlds, skating a powerful short program that propelled him from 15th to fifth in the standings. (Calgary Sun/Jack Cusano)

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

CALGARY -- Just when you think it's time to read him the last rites, just when you're ready to bury his career, Emanuel Sandhu reminds you. Again.

Never, ever count him out.

And so here the mercurial Sandhu is, standing on the precipice of perhaps the most astounding charge to the podium in the history of the world figure skating championships.

Go figure. The guy's 15th and relegated to also-ran status after a miserable qualifying round skate on Monday. This morning, he'll wake up every bit the contender for the medals. The men's free skate final goes tomorrow night.

JUMPS 10 SPOTS

How, you ask? One day, he's in the dumps. The next night, he's the second-best on the ice in the short program, rocketing 10 places up the standings to stand fifth overall.

With the staggering talent to scare everyone in the final flight of what should be a most intriguing free program.

"I think I'm certainly capable of it," Sandhu, 25, of Richmond Hill, said when asked if he can push even higher tomorrow. "All I need to do right now is rely on that preparation and confidence, and focus on each moment. Don't let the fears crawl in, don't let that perfectionism in the outcome take over my head space."

There was not a hint of shakiness last night. Coach Joanne McLeod wouldn't allow him to go there again.

"Obviously, just a killer what he did in the qualifying," she said. "It was a disaster. It was almost embarrassing. But that's not what I talked to him about. Don't dwell in the past, go with the now."

That he did. Even though he fell on a triple Lutz, Sandhu rotated the jump fully and racked up the points. He'd already banked a quad toe-triple toe combination and a solid triple Axel.

The end result: A personal best short program score of 78.41, and an overall total of 107.36.

"It feels great," he said afterward.

And so Canada has two skaters still in the podium race at these worlds. Olympic bronze medallist Jeffrey Buttle of Smooth Rock Falls botched a triple lutz in his short program, and remained in fourth place with a 107.78-point total -- less than a point ahead of Sandhu.

"I took the lutz for granted and I wasn't focusing," said Buttle.

Reigning world champion and Olympic silver medal winner Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland, who finished fourth in the short program, remains on top with 117.64 points. Right behind him are Japanese teen hotshot Nobunari Oda (114.48) and Brian Joubert of France (114.36), the short program winner with 80.41.

But all eyes will be on Sandhu with the medals on the line.

"Never," said Buttle. "Never underestimate Emanuel Sandhu."

Shawn Sawyer of Edmundston, N.B., is 24th and qualified for the free skate final.

DANCERS IN SECOND

Meanwhile, Canada's Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon put themselves squarely in the medal hunt by placing second in yesterday's compulsory dance. With a score of 38.41 points for their Ravensburger Waltz, a mere 0.15 behind Bulgaria's Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski. Americans Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto are third (37.59).

"There's a very small margin between us and first," said Dubreuil, 31, of Montreal. "It's interesting. We're pretty happy about how we're skating."

The right hip injury that forced their withdrawal from the Turin Games hasn't been an issue. So far.

"I'm at about 80-85% physically," said Dubreuil. "But our skating is at its top level. The main thing is just to control the swelling and the pain."

Vancouver's Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe stand eighth.


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