2010 reasons to smile

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

CALGARY -- These things are usually about one final exclamation point, a glorious finish to another long season.

At least, that's the way the world figure skating championships are usually viewed, be it from the athlete's perspective or that of the veteran observer.

But in an Olympic year, it isn't always that way. Rather, it's the first baby step leading into the next quadrennial, the place where we begin the process of identifying and discovering the heroes that might occupy the biggest stage of them all in four years time.

Taken from that angle, this much must be said: Vancouver, you've got a whale of a show building for your Games in 2010. And a lot of stars then just might even be home grown.

That just might be the biggest conclusion -- and there are many that can be drawn-- as the curtain falls on a championships here that provided plenty more intrigue than might have been expected. Even if the house wasn't close to being filled.

The storyline coming in was the absence of all the champions from the Turin Olympics, and how much it watered down the field. Instead, bright new stars emerged. Dramatic storylines played themselves out. And the best of them all didn't even involve a winner.

Then again, how can anyone even begin to call the ice dance silver medal won by Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon a mere consolation prize?

Given where Dubreuil came from at the Olympics -- barely able to walk after a spill, and having to make the agonizing decision to withdraw from the event they'd worked their entire lives for -- it says here there was no better story at these worlds.

Then Kimmie Meissner showed us all Saturday what a little youthful exuberance can do for us all. Skating with pure joy and not a hint of fear, the 16-year-old from Maryland unleashed the most brilliant free skate of the entire competition.

Seven triple jumps, including a pair of triple-triple combinations, and voila ... you have the youngest world women's champ since Tara Lipinski did it at 15 in 1997.

Consider, too, that Meissner shelved the triple Axel for this season -- she's one of only a handful of women to ever land one in competition -- and it's pretty obvious she's just getting started.

In other words, say hello to the new poster girl for women's skating.

THREE ENTRIES FOR 2007

And what of the Canadians?

The best news came in the pairs and dance events, where Canada is up to three entries for the 2007 worlds in Tokyo, thanks to the results in Cowtown. And Emanuel Sandhu and Jeffrey Buttle teamed up to keep the men's complement at three.

Disappointments? Skate Canada's goal of a combined three medals at Olympics and worlds came up one short, as only Dubreuil and Lauzon hit the podium in Cowtown.

One might be tempted to put Buttle's sixth-place finish in the same category, but it was apparent from the get-go that he'd left his best skating in Turin, where he won bronze.

Two-time national champion Joannie Rochette faded after winning the women's qualifying rounds and stirring talk that she might become the first Canadian woman to win a world medal since Ottawa's Elizabeth Manley in Budapest in 1988. But most importantly, Rochette learned she indeed belongs in the big leagues. Her turn on the world podium isn't far off.

The Canadian pairs champs, Valerie Marcoux of Gatineau and partner Craig Buntin, also joined the world's elite with their fifth-place finish.

That's just the present. More young talent is on the way, like Ottawa-born Patrick Chan -- who landed his first-ever triple Axel at the junior worlds in Slovenia -- and Vancouver's Mira Leung, owner of an Elvis Stojko type of focus that spells contender down the road.

Canadian fans saw all of this on home soil this week -- probably for the last time until at least 2012, the next worlds Skate Canada is likely to get. Before then, though, we've got Vancouver in 2010.

And we've only just begun.


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