OTTAWA — It was years ago when Barbara Ann Scott was paraded around the ice sitting in a sleigh, receiving a standing ovation.
“They’ll probably have her stuffed when she dies so they can keep doing this long after she’s gone,’’ said a Canadian coach.
The search for her successor continued in front of a very much alive and in person, Barbara Ann Scott here yesterday.
And she thought she finally saw The One!
Canada’s original golden girl watched a 16-year-old Mira Leung from Vancouver join Joannie ‘Rocket’ Rochette qualifying for the Olympics.
“The little one in the green dress! Wonderful!’’ said Scott.
“Both of them. It’s so nice to see talent and life like that in Canada. With that little one, Canada has a great. We may have two. But especially the little one.
“Hopefully she’ll win the gold,’’ she said of 2010 in Vancouver. “Hopefully I’m still alive to be able to present the medals.’’
It was 1948 in St. Moritz, Switzerland, when Barbara Ann Scott became what no Canadian singles skater wearing white skates has done since. She won Olympic gold. Rochette and Leung punched their tickets to Turin here last night with Scott sitting in the stands.
“One of my goals is to be like her and win the Olympic gold medal,’’ said the 16-year-old of the legend she first met when she was 10.
She’s 77 now, Barbara Ann, a skater who was met by more than 100,000 people including Prime Minister Mackenzie King when she returned to hometown Ottawa from St. Moritz with her gold medal.
In a country where almost every kid – girl or boy – grows up with a pair of skates, the next Barbara Ann Scott will no doubt become a legend for life, too.
Karen Magnussen won silver in Grenoble, France in 1968, Elizabeth Manley won silver in Calgary 1998 and Petra Burka won bronze in Innsbruck in 1964.
That’s been it. Three Olympic medals.
In 2006 we’re sending The Rocket, who might be able to get to the podium now, and Leung who might keep her off in the future.
“I think Joannie Rochette could step up and be on any one of those steps on the podium right now,’’ said Joanne McLeod, Leung’s coach. “I think she’s fantastic.’’
It was a fantastic night for Rochette who celebrated her 20th birthday with the crowd singing Happy Birthday to her.
“It’s Friday the 13th and I was the 13th skater,’’ she said.
Rochette’s from Ile Dupas, Que., an island with a population of 500, many of whom made the three-hour drive to watch her win her second straight title.
“There may not be anybody left there. They all may be here,’’ she said.
Rochette was the birthday girl. But Leung was the story.
“She’s probably the most solid skater I’ve ever competed against,’’ Leslie Hawker, who ended up third, said of Leung.
“She’s 16 and I’m 24 and I know I’m going to learn from her.’’
Leung is God’s way of paying off McLeod for coaching Emanuel Sandhu.
“Total opposites,’’ she said after her shooting star became an Olympian by finishing with 177.79 points to Rochette’s 195.83.
Whatever Sandhu lacks in mental toughness, this kid has in bulk.
“We were thinking 2010 until we started hearing Cynthia Phaneuf was having problems with her knee. That’s when we decided to take a shot at Torino. That’s when we changed her program. That’s what you do as a coach.’’
The kid is something special.
“Sometimes I think she trains too much. She’s a very intelligent girl,’’ said McLeod.
She sounds so much older than her age, this girl who looked nervous as her music began.
“I managed to deliver,’’ she said.
“I’m proud of myself. Not my stupid axel,’’ she added of a jump she popped.
Hawker said she thinks it was one of only three jumps Leung missed all year.
“Yeah, that’s about it,’’ said Leung.
Canadian girls have been known to miss that many in a short program.
And she’s all athlete.
“I had to help put her makeup on,’’ laughed McLeod. “She doesn’t wear makeup. She had a couple of round dots way down on her cheek. She looked like a cute little clown.’’
With the makeup adjustment she came out and made Barbara Ann Scott think she looked like the Canadian skater she’s been waiting to watch since 1948.