Sandhu feels 'like a winner'

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

With tears in her eyes and the crowd on its feet, Joanne McLeod reached over the boards to hug Emanuel Sandhu.

Seconds after her prized student had completed a gritty free skate during the world figure skating championships at the Saddledome, she could only choke out three words: "You did it."

Alas, once the marks were in, Sandhu's solid conclusion to a tumultuous week left him just short of his goal.

"We got the meal but we didn't get the dessert," said McLeod of a fifth-place finish that landed him just six points out of his first worlds medal.

"I was just so pleased the way he fought out there. When you add up the points, we were just short the triple-triple. I was so tempted to yell, 'triple-triple' but the fans were so unbelievable it was like, 'As if he's going to hear me. I'm just going to look like a goof on TV.' "

Despite a shocking amount of nerve at a time when the 25-year-old Richmond Hill, Ont., native generally folds, Sandhu's solid effort was ultimately undone by a disastrous qualifying skate that left him in 15th Monday -- a position he improved to fifth Tuesday.

"I'm sort of like a phoenix -- I kind of rise from my ashes quickly," said the three-time Canadian champ whose previous best at the worlds was seventh.

"Overall, this is definitely marking another milestone in my career and

I can only be happy with the way I skated. I'm pleased with the way I handled the entire event -- it feels great. I felt like a winner afterwards."

That winning feeling had plenty to do with the 8,726 on hand hoping Sandhu or Jeffrey Buttle would push onto the podium from fifth and fourth respectively heading in.

Minutes before Sandhu's performance, which opened with a quad-double, Buttle blew a quad and then fell apart, popping two triple Axels, which he attributed to back problems and fatigue.

"That obviously wasn't what I wanted," said a dejected Buttle, 23, who finished sixth.

"It was almost like I was starting a new season and didn't have the energy. The crowd was really awesome -- I just felt so bad that I didn't put out the performance I wanted, which was as good or better than the Olympics."

For the second year in a row, the star of the event was Switzerland's Stephane Lambiel, 20, who nailed the final routine of the night with two quad toe loops to trump a brilliant skate by second-place finisher Brian Joubert of France.

American Evan Lysacek completed the comeback Sandhu wanted, jumping from seventh to third with the routine of the night.

Assessing a week during which many figured Sandhu would continue to spiral downward following an 11th-place result in Turin, he insisted on following through on advice from McLeod to take control of his routine.

"I decided I'm not going to go with my emotions -- I'm going to take the wheel and do the best I can and that's what I did," said Sandhu, who insisted he wouldn't have heard McLeod's instructions even had she yelled them.

"Maybe triple-triple would have helped me get onto the podium but I didn't have enough speed to carry my jumps. I couldn't hear anything. To come here and be embraced by the crowd was almost overwhelming. On my short skate, I could hardly keep a straight face because

I was so happy they were all cheering for me."

With good reason.


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