Doin' the happy dance

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

The music had ended, the crowd was on its feet and, yet, there they stayed.

Having completed the most impressive, emotional free skate of the evening, Canadian ice dancers Patrice Lauzon and Marie-France Dubreuil faced one another on their knees, their foreheads touching, their eyes filling with tears.

Just four weeks after catching the attention of a nation when her horrific fall ended their Olympics, the dream of a world championship seemed very much alive.

"I think all the emotions bottled up of the last four weeks came out and it was just so special to see all love and Canadian flags and the energy around us," said Dubreuil, 31, who lost her grip and fell during a rotational lift in Turin's original dance, forcing the Montreal natives to withdraw as she suffered a deep bone bruise.

"We didn't want to leave the ice -- it's a good thing we were the last to skate."

With a crowd of 8,062 stomping its feet in anticipation of the marks for what looked like a world championship skate, the judges determined the Canadian couple that entered the free dance in second stayed there -- an agonizing 0.45 of a point behind Bulgaria's Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski.

"Four weeks ago, I was in a wheelchair in Italy," said Dubreuil, unable to wipe the smile off her face. "We only started skating two weeks ago and we made it through this because we are a strong couple."

When the two first stepped on the ice to rousing applause, Dubreuil turned to her on- and off-ice partner to say, "I'm back to you," echoing the first words of their music.

"Never have the words meant so much," she said. "We wanted to skate our hearts out and we did."

Anticipating the lift that dashed their Olympic dream, the crowd exploded two-and-a-half minutes in when they pulled it off.

Staying on the ice for 20 minutes after the medal ceremony to sign autographs and soak up the moment, the two shared a touching moment at the press conference when Lauzon thanked Dubreuil for battling back so hard to make their dream night possible.

He then gently kissed her forehead while fighting back tears.

Insisting they'll take time off this summer before deciding on their future in the sport, the Lyon, France-based pair could easily use their final skate as a swansong given it was their first world championship medal. Their previous best was seventh last year.

It was the first gold medal for a Bulgarian pair, opening the door for the sport's growth in a nation with just two skating rinks. So excited was the duo, they stayed on the ice wrapped in their country's flag so long they had to be asked by the stadium announcer to leave the ice as the Zambonis were circling around them.

"I can't believe we won," said Denkova, who finished fifth in Turin with her partner.

"It's the middle of the night but I'm sure they're celebrating back home and hopefully this will help get more (rinks)."

A third Canadian stood on the podium at night's end, as Kingston, Ont., native Tanith Belbin and American Benjamin Agosto followed up their silver in Turin and at last year's worlds with a bronze last night.

"Just to be able to skate in Canada and see all the flags waving was incredible," said Belbin, who became an American citizen on New Year's Eve, so she could skate for the U.S in Turin.

"Who has the blessing and the fortune to be supported by two great countries? To have that is overwhelming."


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