Clean slate to skate

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Sunday, the two Brians spent the night together in Calgary.

"It was 11 p.m. when we entered the Saddledome and we didn't leave until 6 a.m.," said Brian Orser of himself and Brian Boitano.

Twenty years ago next month they shared the spotlight at the Calgary Olympics.

"It was the first time since then that either of us have been back," said Orser, who was filming a special with the American who beat him in the highly hyped Battle of the Brians for the Olympic gold medal.

I mention that because Orser is here this week, along with just about everybody who ever was anybody in Canadian figure skating, to try to create some sizzle where there isn't any.

NO ORSER

Two years and a couple of weeks before the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and Canada has no Orser to get excited about.

No Kurt Browning. No Elvis Stojko. No Lloyd Eisler and Isabelle Brasseur.

No Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz.

No Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

There's no buzz for the lead-off event in the countdown to Canada's second hosting of the Winter Olympics.

Indeed, a curtain hangs from the rafters of the Pacific Coliseum, the Olympic venue, to create a capacity of 6,700.

Fewer than 5,000 fans are expected to watch most events at Canadians here -- an event which sold out GM Place in 1999.

"We need some stars. We can't do it hit-and-miss. We need to rely on somebody. But we'll get there again," Orser swears.

Over the years, the one sport Canada could count on to supply Olympic hopes has been figure skating.

Dating back to Barbara Ann Scott 60 years ago next month, Canada has won 20 Olympic medals in figure skating. Only long track speed-skating has provided more with 32, most of them recently.

But going into Vancouver 2010, you could make a case that, other than ski jumping (where we'd take our own Eddie The Eagle at this point), expectations are lower for medals to be delivered by figure skating than any other sport.

"That's definitely the perception that's out there," said Michael Slipchuk, 10 months into the job as Skate Canada's new high performance director.

"Certainly, at this point, we're not heading to 2010 with the public expecting gold like we did going into so many other Olympics.

"But we're seeing a lot of great progress.

"We had three in the Grand Prix finals this year," he said of fourth place Tess Virtue and Scott Moir in dance and fourth place Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison and 17-year-old Patrick Chan who was fifth.

"We believe we will definitely have medal contenders in 2010."

But none of those names , right now, sell you any tickets.

Browning, the four-time world champion who was Slipchuk's stablemate all those years in Edmonton, is here with CBC.

The network announced yesterday it will telecast this year's Worlds from Gothenberg, Sweden, and next year's from Los Angeles to end concerns Canadians wouldn't even be able to watch our skaters compete at the big events leading to the 2010 Olympics.

"We'd like to have a glory team in Vancouver," said Browning.

"Right now, obviously, we don't have one. But I'm excited about our chances for a couple of medals. You can see it rebuilding."

'STARS OF THE FUTURE'

William Thompson, who 15 months ago took the job of Skate Canada CEO, says that's what this week will be all about.

"We are here to discover our stars of the future. Progress has been coming along very quickly. The three entries we had in the Grand Prix Finals were all junior age eligible. A lot of countries took note of that.

"I don't think Canadians know how good Virtue and Moir are. They're right at the top of the world.

"Dube and Davison are close to being on a world championship podium. And Patrick Chan is rocketing up in the world.

"We're building our programs for 2014 and 2018. You can't come in and say 'in two years you must be on the podium.'

"However, some of our young skaters are putting it down faster than we expected."

But will they get there in time to manufacture medals back here in 2010?


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