Sandhu fights to finish line

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

CALGARY -- The moment isn't always in the medal.

But oh, Emanuel Sandhu was so close he could almost taste some hardware last night at the world figure skating championships.

"We got the meal, but we didn't get the dessert," said Sandhu's coach, Joanne McLeod, who was in tears after watching her prize student produce a remarkable, career-best fifth-place finish at the worlds.

What a stunning turnaround it was for the 25-year-old from Richmond Hill. Buried in 15th place after the qualifying rounds, having to answer pointed questions about his future. Then, an astonishing renaissance in the short program that pushed him into the medal hunt.

"Overall, this is definitely another milestone in my career, and I can only be happy with the way I skated," he said.

Sandhu put on a gritty display before 8,726 at the Pengrowth Saddledome, fighting to land two quadruple jumps and a pair of triple Axels. But there was no triple-triple combination, which he admitted later might have been the difference.

"It's all about the fight, especially with the points and the way it works it out now," said a still-elated Sandhu. "Even though (the Axels) weren't perfect, they still count and maybe with a triple-triple, I would have got to the podium."

Added McLeod: "If you tally up the marks, it's probably the one jump that kept us away from the medals."

Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland held off France's Brian Joubert to retain his world title. Lambiel won the free skate with 156.58 points, a smidgen ahead of Joubert (156.47), the 2004 world silver medalist.

LAMBIEL RULES

Lambiel finished with an overall total of 274.22 points, Joubert 270.83. Evan Lysacek of the U.S. moved from seventh after the short program to snare the bronze at 255.22.

Sandhu's final three-program number stood at 249.89, less than two points behind Japan's Nobunari Oda. But he'll remember the week for the way he didn't pack it in after he seemed to hit rock bottom in the qualifiers.

The standing ovation he received just added to the happy feeling.

"Amazing, amazing," said Sandhu. "I felt like a winner afterwards. It was just fantastic. To come here and be embraced this way by (the fans), it was almost overwhelming."

They also came hoping Jeffrey Buttle could pull off another one of his come-from-behind charges to the podium. But the Smooth Rock Falls native, who was fourth after the short, just didn't have it in him last night and went home empty-handed for the first time at a competition in the past two seasons.

It was over early, when Buttle barely stayed upright on a quad attempt, then popped both his triple Axels. With a 133.81-point score for his free skate, the Olympic bronze medallist slid to sixth in the final standings ( 241.59).

"I'm glad that I came (to worlds), but that obviously wasn't what I wanted," said Buttle, 23. "I was so focused on the Olympics ... I put all my energy into that. The world championships weren't something I focused on."

But Buttle can go home knowing he and Sandhu did enough to ensure Canada keeps three men's spots for next year's worlds in Tokyo. Sandhu isn't ready to say yet if he'll be among them.

"I want to just enjoy this moment for now and see what happens," he said. "I've never had a medal at this event, but we're so close."


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