A love story with courage

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:59 AM ET

CALGARY -- Patrice Lauzon could barely say the words, so great was his admiration for the woman he loves.

"I just want to thank Marie ...," the Canadian ice dancer said late Friday night before choking on his emotions at a post-event press conference, then tenderly kissing the forehead of his partner on the ice and in life.

"For working so hard to come back," he then said, finishing the thought. "She was very strong."

None of the 8,062 who witnessed the moment of these world figure skating championships Friday night truly knows what Marie-France Dubreuil has endured the past four weeks. All the way from the depths of despair at the Turin Olympics, to the finest night of their figure skating lives on Friday.

They write movies or books about this kind of stuff.

No wonder Dubreuil and Lauzon didn't want it all to end.

The medals were silver, but this was their golden night.

"We didn't want to leave the ice," said Dubreuil, 31, who was in tears almost the second the music stopped. "It's a good thing we were the last to skate."

To say it was a long time coming ... well, there have always been the doubters. Dubreuil and Lauzon skated for years in the shadow of perhaps Canada's greatest ice dance team ever, the 10-time national champs, Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz.

Even when Dubreuil and Lauzon broke through for their first Canadian title in 2000 -- ironically, right here at the Saddledome in Calgary -- they were stung by the thought that wouldn't go away.

"Yeah, but if Bourne and Kraatz hadn't been injured ..."

SINGULAR GOAL

They made the difficult decision to pack up their bags in 2002, and move across the ocean to Lyon, France, to train with a singular goal in mind: A medal at the 2006 Olympics to end their careers.

It wasn't easy. They were foreigners in a land far from home, and Christmases were often spent thousands of kilometres away from loved ones back in Quebec.

But it was always about the dream. After Bourne and Kraatz struck gold at the 2003 Washington worlds and retired, it was finally Dubreuil and Lauzon's time. They ruled Canadian ice dance starting in 2004, and began their slow, steady climb up the world rankings.

Eighth in 2004 in Dortmund, seventh in 2005 in Moscow ... the Turin Games were just a year away, but the podium seemed so far removed from reality.

But then came the collaboration last summer with David Wilson, the "it" choreographer of the moment from Toronto. The result: The Somewhere In Time free dance that quickly became the talk of the skating world, from the very first time they performed it last October at Skate Canada in St. John's.

They won that event, then the NHK Trophy in Japan. But the bronze medal at the Grand Prix final in Tokyo ... that was the one that seemed to make the impossible at last look possible.

And there they were, the dream medal in sight after the compulsories in Turin, and almost all the way through the original dance. With their treasured chance to tell their love story on the biggest stage of them all so close they could touch it.

Then came the fateful fall on the rotational lift, which left the petite Dubreuil with a deep bone bruise on her right hip so painful that she could barely skate off the ice.

CARRIED HER OUT

A wheelchair was rolled into the kiss and cry area, but Dubreuil refused to sit in it. Better her partner lovingly carry her out of the Palavela in his arms, then leave the arena that way.

It was that inner strength-- which so overwhelmed Lauzon -- that allowed Dubreuil to find it in her to skate this week in Calgary. Friday night made it all seem worth it, and wiped away most of the pain and the heartbreak in Turin.

It was the Martini and Underhill moment of these 2006 worlds, the memory that everyone who was here will take home and cherish forever.

Nobody more than Dubreuil and Lauzon, who may or may not have skated their last dance Friday night.

But just half a point shy of a world title?

It might just be too tempting for them to resist.

But then again, after Friday night, who would complain if they wanted to return next year and give us all even more?

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


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