Medals? It'll be a big zero

OTTAWA -- You have to go back to Lake Placid in 1980 to find the last Olympic Winter Games when Canada didn't win a medal in figure skating.

Will it happen again?

Two years ago, Canada's 22-year streak of winning at least one medal at worlds was stopped in Dortmund, Germany. Will these skaters go to the worlds this spring in Calgary and not manufacture a medal?

You expect success every year at the Olympic Winter Games in hockey, curling and figure skating.

But while there looks like there's plenty of talent on the way, including 16-year-old sensation Mira Leung, for Vancouver 2010, that's then.

This is now. And nobody is coming out of here saying, "Wow!"

Except Pam Coburn, the CEO of Skate Canada.

The Canadian Olympic Committee has set a goal of 25 medals for Turin, as our nation launches into the "Own the Podium" era, inspired by playing host to the 2010 show.

They only have figure skating down for one medal.

"Going into the Canadian championships, I was very comfortable with the notion of one. Now I'm hoping for two," said Coburn.

"Going in, one looked like the right number. But we have the potential for two."

She identified Jeffrey Buttle and the dance team of Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon, who won their fourth Canadian title, as the skaters to do it.

Two? Is there even one?

A SURPRISE SILVER

Last year at worlds, Buttle provided a surprise silver. He won silver again at the Grand Prix final this season. He's definitely a contender. But can you win an Olympic medal without a quad? Certainly not with the skate he produced in the men's free skate final Saturday night.

Regardless, he's hardly a sure thing to win an Olympic medal when four-time world champion Kurt Browning took three tries at it and came up empty.

Joannie "Rocket" Rochette is a rising star. But do you go from 12th in the world to the top three in a single season?

There's clearly nothing in pairs.

Dubreuil & Lauzon in dance?

Coburn and the Canadian judges (by giving them a whopping 212.10 points) are trying to sell the idea that the sport could make a statement that dance doesn't have the fix in again if they put the long-shot Canadians on the podium.

ON THE ESCALATOR

Dance has been fixed for years.

Especially at the Olympics.

In dance, you get on the escalator, find your spot, then move up as people step off. It's been that way for the four years since Salt Lake.

Dubreuil and Lauzon got on the escalator with an 11th place and three 10th-place spots between 2000 and 2003 with a 12th at the Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games. Two years ago they were eighth. Last year they were seventh.

For Dubreuil & Lauzon to make it to the podium in Turin would be a huge leap, even if they managed to make the podium at the ISU Grand Prix finals.

"It would be a big jump," said Dubreuil.

"It would make a great story," said Lauzon.

Their real hope is that whoever does end up on the podium in Turin decides to pass on the Calgary Worlds, which follow, and allows Dubreuil & Lauzon to move up some spaces on the escalator, maybe even letting them go out with a medal at home.

Coburn and Gayle McClelland, athlete development director of Skate Canada, are essentially challenging ISU judges.

"The judges have been very carefully selected for these Olympics. Everybody knows the eyes of the world will be on them," McClelland said of the Jamie Sale & David Pelletier scandal at Salt Lake 2002, where a French judge put the Russians first in pairs in a trade-off for the Russian judge putting the French skaters first in dance.

The thing you should know about the scandal is that all the whistle-blowers have all been removed from skating in the last four years, and the convicted are all still around. And they're back with a new system where you can't finger the French judge this time around.

One medal? Two?

Put me down for none.