Vancouver highway

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

CALGARY -- The road to Vancouver 2010 doesn't start in 2009.

In figure skating it starts here this year.

If you're going to go from being the third-place country at the Winter Olympics in the next four years, you're going to need successes on all the figure skating fronts.

Here yesterday, in the event in which Canada last won gold with Edmonton's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier - and the one where we were furthest away at Torino 2006 - there was success.

"It was a great day for Canadian pairs skating," said Craig Buntin who combined with Valerie Marcoux to finish fifth at the World Figure Skating Championships with Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison seventh.

Whoa? Hold it?

We're a country coming off a 24-medal Olympics - fifth and seventh in pairs during a year in which the Olympic gold and bronze medal winners didn't show up, isn't going to turn a lot of people's cranks.

True. But in pairs, where Canada fell off the face of the earth when Sale and Pelletier went away, this really was a good day.

NOT EVEN HERE!

For Cody Hay it was a great day.

And the young Grande Prairie skater wasn't even here.

Hay, 22, is the new partner of Annabelle Langlois, who, with previous partner Patrice Archetto, moved to Edmonton's Royal Glenora Club with expectations of following Sale and Pelletier onto the world stage. Jilted by Langlois in love, Archetto dumped her in figure skating.

You could make a case Langlois and Hay were the big Canadian winners here.

Positions five and seven equals twelve. Any combination of results adding up to less than 13 and you get three teams in next year's Worlds instead of two.

Canada has only had two spots since 2002.

"This is a great beginning for the next four years," said Marcoux.

Buntin projects and predicts that pairs won't be out of the hunt when Canadian figure skaters show up for Vancouver 2010.

"If we keep improving like that, it has medal written all over it," he said of going from 11th at Torino 2006 to fifth here, and of Jessica Dube and Bruce Davison going from 10th to seventh.

"Having three is going to be huge," said Buntin. "Next year's Canadian championships are going to be awesome. We have pairs pushing each other, feeding off this, fighting for first and fighting to get one of those three spots at next year's Worlds."

Buntin says Canada needs that if our nation is going to make it to the podium.

"I was thinking about that this morning," said the North Vancouver skater.

"Last year when we went to Worlds I was asked about how tough it had become just to break into the top eight. Well, we just went from outside the top 10 to (being) in the top five. As long as we all keep getting a little bit better DEVELOPING A STYLE

And there's more to it than that, he said.

Canada, in the next four years is going to have to develop something special.

"It's all about Canadian skating developing our own style and perfecting our own style," he said.

Dube and Davison, the 2005 World Junior silver medallists, certainly couldn't look at this as being anything but a positive.

"We were really happy with our performances all year, both the short and the long, just like at the Olympics," said Davison of the two 21-year-olds.

"We were really proud of the way we finished our season on a high with two personal bests. I don't think we could have asked for much more for our results. We've both gained experience this year."

Marcoux and Buntin?

"We made one mistake, but that was still a personal best," she said of the judging points. "What a good way to end the year."

Despite the fact there were slightly fewer than 8,000 fans in the stands, Buntin said he could feel Vancouver 2010 here.

"Of all our events between here and then, this is the one we'll learn the most from.

"To come out fourth in the short program in your home country at the World Championships ... we know that we're not going to see this much energy in a building probably until 2010."


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