Canadian pairs off to a slow start

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:03 PM ET

KITCHENER -- The music floats through the Auditorium where lithe pixies dance in fluid choreography, effortlessly flinging themselves into the arms of tuxedoed brawn.

Then Anabelle Langlois' skate blade got caught on a hook on the bottom of partner Cody Hay's pants yesterday at Skate Canada and for a brief moment it seemed as if Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy weren't the only ones who were skating to the Send In The Clowns theme.

"I was trying to shake it off, when I didn't get it off the first two kicks I thought we might have to stop, but I got it free," Hay said.

Pairs figure skating can be sublime. But, as Hay noted, it can result in "goofy things."

Yesterday saw a bit of both. Overall, it was not a vintage day for Canadian pairs skating.

On the other hand, it may be a minor miracle that Hay and Langlois are even out there, skating well enough to place a distant fourth after the short program. It was in July 2008 that Langlois suffered a severe spiral fracture to her lower right fibula during a practice session. It cost her the entire season before returning last September to win a bronze at a competition in Germany.

But yesterday marked their return to the Grand Prix circuit.

"We thought about going to the judges table (to ask for a restart) ... but then I got it (untangled)," Hay said. It continues a streak of weird happenstance for Langlois, who once also had the bag holding her skates lost on a flight to Russia that forced the pair to withdraw. Then came the fall. Now PantsGate.

"That fluke, that's kind of dragged something down, it's just in our head, we were thinking: 'Oh that's kind of a glitch,' " said Langlois, who still keeps her ankle wrapped during competition.

"It's felt fine ever since the second operation," she said. "The first one was to fix it but they left some of the hardware inside."

It left her in pain when she tried to practice. Last year, she and Hay watched as Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison took their Canadian championship. "I always felt that I'd be able to get back."

Well almost always anyway. If she had little doubt, others did. When she first tried to come back the pain wouldn't go away and a figure skater who can't spin isn't much use in a game where everyone goes in circles.

She decided to take a chance and have a second surgery to have the metal that had held her ankle together removed.

At age 28, with the Olympics just months away, there seemed little option. If it wasn't going to happen for them in Vancouver, if they didn't take a chance now, that chance would never again come for them.

"As soon as they took it out I knew we'd be OK. My coach and I decided to have it taken out. It wasn't a medical decision."

So, the numbers on the scoresheet yesterday for their interpretation of Filippo Marchetti's Fascination Waltz -- for one day at least -- were slightly incidental -- a 55.52 mark that left them in fourth place just behind Dube and Davison, who also turned in a fractured performance. Reigning world champions, Savchenko and Szolkowy got a standing ovation for their clownish routine and look unbeatable going into today's free skate with a 74.16 score. Russia's Maxim Trankov and Maria Mukhortova are second with 65.80.

Dube, and Davison scored 57.90 while skating to Requiem to a Dream but ran into a mini-nightmare of their own on a planned side-by-side triple Salchow. Dube managed only to single, a costly mistake.

"It wasn't a horrible skate or anything like that, it was just the side-by-side Sals," Davison said. "Big mistake on the side by side sals and then after just a little bit on our heels ... today was a bit rough."

But, then, nobody ever guaranteed that the road Vancouver wouldn't have a few potholes.

BILL.LANKHOF@SUNMEDIA.CA


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