Former champs strive to get back on top

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

If there's going to be a real battle at these Canadian figure skating championships it's going to come in the pair's competition.

It promises to be a beauty.

Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison come into the competition as defending Canadian champs but there's a list of former champs and would-be champs who are going to push the pair for a spot at the Winter Olympics.

It's a competition that's rife with good stories but the most compelling comes from a pairs team that won the 2008 Canadian championship in Vancouver but couldn't skate last year.

Annabelle Langlois and Cody Hay won the title in the city where the Olympics will be held.

Then months later Langlois broke her fibula and a long list of setbacks began. The injury kept them out of competition for the year. They still might be out of the competition if Langlois hadn't insisted doctors remove a plate from her ankle last February.

"The first surgery's purpose was to get me back on the ice as soon as possible so I didn't lose a lot of training time and didn't lose muscle mass," Langlois said.

But the plate that was inserted was causing her trouble.

"It was actually digging into my bone every day I skated. The break healed but the plate became my problem. The main thing was to convince my doctor to get the plate out.

"I kept saying that's what needed to be done. We pushed the issue and got it done (last February) and three days later I knew it was better. They told me they weren't going to take it out after the Olympic Games. If we wouldn't have been stubborn enough and stuck to our guns, we wouldn't even be here trying to compete for it."

The pair will be looking to grow its competitive edge against the likes of Dube/Davison, Megan Duhamel/Craig Buntin and Mylene Brodeur/John Mattatall. Hay and Langlois are the wildcard in the competition.

"I think the biggest thing we lost was the competitive experience," Hay said. "Our first competition that we did when we were able to skate again was Thornhill. It's a summer competition. Most people use it as a warm-up event. As soon as we walked into the rink I said to Annabelle 'I don't remember ever feeling like this. Just the nerves and the pressure you put on yourself as you go out to compete is something that I forgot."

They finished fourth at the 2009 Skate Canada but got a pretty good idea of what they needed to do. Langlois said every competition was a "measuring stick."

"We needed to up a little bit of everything . . . up our speed, up our performance level, up our consistency and all the elements," Hay said.

Even though they know they may not be considered favourites, they aren't going into the competition with a "just happy to be here," attitude.

"We go into every competition to compete as if we're going . . . for a gold medal," Hay said.

One of those pairs is defending champions Davison and Dube. They are one of the youngest pairs but have also been together seven years.

"I think we're the most experienced pair here in terms of a team and there's definitely an advantage to that," Davison said.

"We only have to look at each other and we know how the other is feeling. That's a good thing but it could also be interesting, too.

"After that first year, we knew everything we needed about each other."


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