Just six days ago, Steven Clarke was hobbling around on crutches, wondering whether fate would deny him one more time.
But today, the 15-year-old from the Nepean Skating Club can smile, give his aching knee a rest and ponder the huge opportunity that now lies ahead for him and his younger sister, Sarah.
For the second straight year, the Clarkes found themselves in a tight battle for the juvenile dance crown at the Skate Canada Eastern Ontario Sectionals. But this time, the gold was theirs.
By topping the field in yesterday's free dance at the Nepean Sportsplex, the Clarkes finished with a 52.88 point total -- 3.43 points better than Anna McCorriston and Adam McDiarmid of the Minto Skating Club.
Only the juvenile winners here move on to the Skate Canada Junior Nationals, Jan. 31-Feb. 3 at Brampton's Powerade Centre.
''It's going to be fun. It's all new for us,'' said Sarah Clarke, 12, about the junior nationals, an event they missed qualifying for by a scant 1.03 points a year ago.
Their second chance was put in serious jeopardy two weeks ago, when Steven Clarke suffered a Level 1 tear in his right ACL during a practice session. He only got off crutches on Tuesday, then had to contend with a bout of pneumonia.
When the competition lights turned on, the siblings got it done, winning both compulsories and the free dance.
''My knee was sore when I was skating,'' admitted Steven Clarke afterward. ''But I'm happy now.''
IN OTHER EVENTS:
- Elizabeth Comeau of the Gloucester Skating Club will join the Clarkes at junior nationals after edging out Nepean's Alaine Chartrand by one-tenth of a point to win the juvenile women's gold.
- Minto's Dante DiDomenicantonio and Nepean's William Wu finished 1-2 in pre-novice men to advance to the Skate Canada Eastern Challenge, Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in Moncton, N.B.
- Glen Cairn's Tim Pham won the pre-juvenile men's.