Rochette coasts to uncontested gold

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:06 PM ET

KITCHENER, Ont. -- It was far from perfect.

It wasn't anything to brag about.

But on a day when Canadians littered the ice, Joannie Rochette stayed upright long enough to win her second Skate Canada International championship.

"I'm happy to win but disappointed at my performance," Rochette said yesterday.

She popped a triple salchow and stumbled on a triple lutz but still almost doubled her lead over runner-up Alissa Czisny, who fell twice.

"I know I can do much better but it's a challenging program to do physically," said Rochette, who also won a world silver last year to make herself a medal contender for Vancouver.

Czisny had a score of 163.53, meaning all Rochette -- skating last -- had to do was stay on her feet.

"The last minute, I missed a little in power. There's no reason for me to miss a triple salchow at the end. I think the only reason is fatigue," said Rochette, who scored 182.90.

Cynthia Phaneuf had a horrible night, falling four times and dropping to seventh place.

Rochette has earned a spot in next month's Grand Prix Final in Tokyo.

Meanwhile, Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir appear poised to claim gold in the dance, winning yesterday's original dance.

Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison captured bronze in pairs while Anabelle Langlois of Gatineau, Que., and Cody Hay of Barrie, Ont., finished fourth in their first Grand Prix appearance in two seasons.

And Patrick Chan continued to stumble.

Chan could win a gold medal for optimism.

Unfortunately, optimism isn't an Olympic event.

Chan fell three times yesterday in the men's final. He spent more time pushing ice chips than the Zamboni. And, it showed in the final results. Just three months from the Olympics, Chan finished sixth.

Coming off a calf injury and the flu, he might not have been expected to win his 2009 Grand Prix debut.

But few expected him to look both rusty and tired. He still can mesmerize with his footwork in a program set to Phantom of the Opera that has stunning potential. But last night, he was just stunningly bad.

He fell on a triple axel midpoint in his program.

"The adrenalin is flowing so much, you don't feel the pain. You just want to get going again," said Chan, who has continued to be a picture of good humour throughout the lost weekend.

That fall precipitated his second crash on a triple lutz jump combination.

"Getting back up to get going for the lutz, three-jump combination was difficult. I need a lot of speed and when I fell, I had none and had to try to build it back."

Then, fatigue set in.

"I lost three-quarters of my gas halfway through the program. I was disappointed in that because I trained really hard. I was disappointed with the way my body handled itself near the end," Chan said.

He fell again on a triple salchow and then it was over, the ice littered with flowers and bits of Chan.

But worry?

Chan, predicted to be among Canada's best shots for a medal in Vancouver, remained nonplussed. He expected problems.

"Look, it's my first Grand Prix. If it was the beginning of the season, I don't think it would be as big a concern for people. But it isn't (a concern) for me," he said of playing catch-up to the rest of the field.

"This is what I have to experience ... to get to the Olympics."

If he isn't worrying, there are plenty of others doing it for him.

"There's a concern of course. Everybody's talking 83, 82 days so it's hard not to think about it. I have to stay in the present."

American Jeremy Abbott won with a 232.99 score, followed by Japan's Daisuke Takahashi and Alban Preaubert of France at 212.28.

Chan normally has no problem achieving those scores. So how bad was he? He finished with a 198.77, more than 50 points off his personal best.

"Maybe I did too much in the warmup. Maybe that's one reason I was so tired at the end. I'll have to see what I need to change, to tweak a little bit," Chan said.

He won't get much chance. Because his injury kept him out of earlier Grand Prix events, he's not eligible for the final in Japan, where most of his competition in Vancouver will get another tune-up.

His only other major competition between now and the Olympics are the nationals.

BILL.LANKHOF@SUNMEDIA.CA


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