Canada has reason to be positive

ANGELA MACISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:15 AM ET

The future of Canadian figure skating is in good hands.

Medal expectations fell short at the Olympics and world championships but the fire is just getting stoked.

Gayle McClelland, national teams director with Skate Canada, said yesterday the next generation is getting ready for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

"To have qualified three men, three pairs, three dance and two ladies (for the 2007 worlds) puts us in good stead for having some developmental opportunities," she said. "You certainly saw the fight at Canadians when we had that third spot up for grabs in the men's event, so it sure does set some fire under the athletes at home to qualify for the world team in Tokyo."

After winning the qualifying round Wednesday at the Saddledome, Canadian women's champ Joannie Rochette was in good position to medal at the worlds but struggled through her short program and yesterday's free skate to finish seventh overall.

That's a slip from her fifth-place result at the Turin Olympics last month.

But Rochette is determined.

"The top girls (here), I know I can compete with them," said the 20-year-old from Ile Dupas, Que. "I've come ahead of them a couple of times. Before this competition, I didn't really believe I belonged to that group and now I know I belong there.

"Even though I finished seventh, not where I want to be, I know that I can come back next year and be stronger."

Mira Leung, a 16-year-old from Vancouver, is the big up-and-comer for Canadian women. She was 13th overall at her first senior world championships, one month after being 12th in Turin.

"I think I've beat the odds on some occasions," Leung said. "I'm satisfied with my rate of improvement and I know what to work on for next season and beyond. It's been a very constructive season overall."

Often compared to former Canadian champ Elvis Stojko, Leung has her sights set on representing Canada at the Olympics in 2010.

Her coach, Joanne McLeod, said she'll need to harness her student's intensity a little, considering Leung was the only skater in women's to hit the practice ice late Friday night.

"I think sometimes she overdoes it," said McLeod. "She obsessively wants to do a few (jumps) too many."


Videos

Photos