Lords of the dance

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:45 AM ET

All they could do was watch and wait.

Lisa Casselman and Ryan Behnia had posted a personal-best score in the pre-novice free dance at the Skate Canada Junior Nationals on Friday night in Brampton.

They'd done what was needed to assure a medal.

But one question still remained.

Gold or silver?

Once the final scores for Quebec's Marie-Philippe Vincent and Kevin Pierro went up on the board at the Powerade Centre, Casselman and Behnia finally knew. And the Nepean Skating Club duo had one more dance in mind.

A dance of joy.

"It feels incredible," Casselman, 14, told the Sun yesterday. "It's such a different feeling. I've never experienced being a Canadian champion before, but when you get that chance ... wow! I can't believe this is happening to me."

Behnia, 16, doesn't believe it yet.

"We'd been hoping for this all year, but I don't think it'll hit me until I get home," he said from Brampton. "It feels really good."

A year ago, Casselman and Behnia were 10th as pre-novices at the junior nationals in Moncton, N.B.

Why the mighty leap to a national crown?

"Our coach (Darryl Van Luven) gave us a reality check before the season," said Casselman. "He told us if we wanted it bad enough, we had to really work for it."

The hardest test came this week: Casselman and Behnia were fifth after the first of two compulsory dances.

"We had some concern," said Behnia. "But we knew we still had our best compulsory to come and our free dance."

They moved up to third after the Rocker Foxtrot. The Nepean couple's free dance put them over the top, but it was a squeaker. Casselman and Behnia totalled 61.87 points, Vincent and Pierro 61.29. The leaders after the compulsories, Quebec's Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Anthony Quintal, were another hair back at 61.13.

Now Casselman and Behnia will have quite the story to tell when they head back to high school tomorrow.

"Ryan and I have been talking about it for so long, how excited we were to compete here," said Casselman, a Grade 9 student at John McCrae.

"It's going to be a really big shock for everyone."

And they're not done yet -- the Canada Winter Games beckon for the young duo next month in Whitehorse.

"It'll be a different atmosphere in a different place," said Behnia, who's in Grade 11 at Hillcrest High. "It will feel like a mini-Olympics."

AROUND THE AMATEUR SCENE: The second of three men's qualifiers for provincial and national championships wraps up today at the Ottawa Gymnastics Centre. Competition runs from 9:15 a.m. until 3:15 p.m., when medals will be presented. Some 266 athletes are entered in the meet.


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