Rochette skates to 6th straight national title

Joannie Rochette raise her arms upon hearing her score in the senior women's free program during...

Joannie Rochette raise her arms upon hearing her score in the senior women's free program during the BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships at the John Labatt Centre in London on Saturday, January 16. The Quebecer won the event and will represent Canada at the Vancouver Olympic Games. (Derek Ruttan, QMI Agency)

Ryan Pyette, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:50 PM ET

Another clutch performance.

A standing ovation alongside rippling red-and-white Maple Leaf flags.

Olympic-medal competitive marks.

All of it is exactly what Joannie Rochette dreams of seeing when she’s done skating next month in Vancouver.

Yesterday in London, the 24-year-old from Ile Dupas, Que., captured her sixth straight national women’s title at the John Labatt Centre — the rink where she won her first in 2005 — with a rock-solid long program victory with a season-best 144.08 points and overall total of 208.23.

“You don’t want to go into the Olympics not as your country’s national champion,” she said. “That was important to me.”

Back in 2005 after her first national crown, Rochette couldn’t understand the fuss.

“A lot of people were coming up and congratulating me afterwards,” she recalled, “and I said, ‘Well, Jennifer (Robinson) won six (total) so I have to get to six. And when I looked it up and saw (No. 6) was in 2010, I said, ‘Oh, shoot, I can’t miss any of them.’”

She didn’t.

And she shot past newly-minted Olympic teammate Cynthia Phaneuf, who stopped Robinson’s streak of five in a row in 2004 at Edmonton. The now-pregnant Robinson stood with the rest of the crowd to acknowledge Rochette’s tremendous skate.

It’s the second-longest winning streak in Canadian women’s figure skating history. Constance Wilson-Samuel won seven consecutive national titles from 1929-35.

Phaneuf was far from discouraged.

She doubled two of her triple jumps but was clearly second-best in the field with 116.25 points and 182.55 overall. She did what she came to do — qualify for the Olympics along with Rochette.

“I know Joannie and what she can do, I heard the crowd after she skated and I didn’t worry (about winning nationals),” said the Contrecoeur, Que., native who turned 22 yesterday. “I’m very happy. I wanted to give myself the best birthday present ever (a trip to the Olympics).”

Quebec’s Myriane Samson was third (151.10 overall) and Watford’s Diane Szmiett (148.47) finished fourth for the second year in a row.

Rochette’s Olympic teammates Bryce Davison and Jessica Davison know exactly how she feels.

The pairs champs successfully defended their title for the first time with an effort that, if duplicated, just might put them in medal contention in Vancouver.

Dube and Davision, second after Friday’s short program, rebounded with a record 135.40 points for a winning two-day total of 198.27.

I guess we bounced back,” said the 23-year-old Davison, who finished 10th with Dube four years ago in Turin. “If we skate that way in Vancouver, we know we’ll be happy. There’s really not a lot we can look at and say we could’ve done it better unless we get really picky.”

They’ll be joined in B.C. by second-place finishers Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay (183.42 overall), who outlasted Craig Buntin and Meagan Duhamel (172.18 points) for the trip west.

The pair missed nationals last year because of Langlois’ broken ankle after winning in 2008 on the Pacific Coliseum ice where the Olympic figure skating will be held.

“We had great support when it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” the 28-year-old Langlois said. “I’m not one to usually cry but there were times (on the comeback trail) where Cody had to carry me around the ice sobbing.”

“While Anabelle was hurt, this was our focus,” Hay said. “We were always working toward Vancouver. I’m excited.”

The top two pairs, Rochette and Phaneuf received their Team Canada jackets from former Olympic champs Marnie McBean (rowing) and Sylvie Frechette (synchronized swimming) last night at the JLC.

Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, who wrapped up a third straight national crown, will be officially welcomed to the team today, along with a second dance team from Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje or Vanessa Crone/Paul Poirier.

And now, it’s all up to Patrick Chan.

It looks like Saskatoon all over again.

If he’s the main man after today’s long program, then all four winners will have successfully defended their national titles heading into the Olympics.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos