- SKATING - Canadian pair wins gold in world championships

Sunday, March 25
Canadian pair wins gold in world championships

VANCOUVER, Canada - - Jamie Sale and David Pelletier gave the Canadian crowd exactly what it craved - a world title.

The Canadians wrapped up their incredible season Wednesday night with the pairs title at the World Figure Skating Championships. In only their third season together, they won all but one of their competitions and will go to the Salt Lake City Olympics as the favorite for gold.

Jamie Sale
Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada captured the gold medal in front of their hometown crowd at the World Championships held in Vancouver.
"This is the best day of my life," Pelletier said.

When they saw their marks - all 5.9s for artistry except one 5.8 - Sale jumped up and thrust her fists in the air. It took another few moments to realize they were in first, and when they did, Sale's mouth dropped open, she put her hands on the side of her head and said over and over, "Oh my God! Oh my God!"

"It was absolutely awesome," Sale said. "I was calm and I enjoyed each moment because it can be overwhelming. But instead, I used it to be calm and to be in a state of love and to project a state of love."

Two-time world champions Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze finished second, the third time they've lost to Sale and Pelletier this year. Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China, silver medalists the past two years, were third.

"This is not really our best, but it was really good," Sikharulidze said. "There was some pressure, but maybe that's better for the program. We were pretty happy with it."

U.S. champions Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman were seventh after a program marked by uncharacteristic mistakes. Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn, skating even though Scott pulled a hip flexor during warmups, were 11th.

Sarah Abitbol and Stephane Bernadis of France, the bronze medalists last year, withdrew because Bernadis has a severely torn right abdominal muscle. He was injured during warmups for Monday's short program, and can't skate for a month.

Skating to "Tristan and Isolde," Sale and Pelletier put on a demonstration of what pairs skating should be. They didn't try any gimmicks or cheap tricks. They simply skated beautifully.

Their combination lift was breathtaking. They flew across the ice, never losing their speed even as he twisted her high above the ice in several intricate and unusual positions. He couldn't have twirled her any easier if she'd been a baton.

Their unison was equally impressive. On their side-by-side spins, they moved totally as one, almost as if they were connected.

Their only error was her singling an axel, but some of the judges might not have seen it because their view was blocked by his body.

The crowd was on its feet before their music stopped, and Sale doubled over, overcome with emotion. Pelletier skated over and hugged her, and she finally stood up, a huge smile on her face.

She had good reason to smile, because the program was more than enough to top Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze, who won the silver medal at the Nagano Olympics. The Russians missed last year's worlds after she tested positive for a banned substance in the European championships, which she said came from cold medicine.

Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze's program to a Charlie Chaplin medley was cute and playful, a departure from their usual classical - and serious - programs. They had their usual speed and technical difficulty.

But it was their Oscar-worthy portrayal of Charlie Chaplin's endearing quirkiness that won them the silver medal. As Sikharulidze duck-stepped around a coy Berezhnaya, you could almost see Chaplin; all that was missing was the cane and the bowler.

The audience laughed, obviously enjoying the program. The judges got a kick out of it, too, giving them six 5.9s for artistry and three 5.8s.

That topped Shen and Zhao, even though the Chinese had higher technical marks. The Chinese have the difficult tricks - they could easily do quadruple throw jumps - but they lack polish. On their side-by-side spins, for example, they got out of unison at the end.

The American pairs needed a combined placement of no worse than 13 to get a third U.S. team for Salt Lake. They looked in good shape after Abitbol and Bernadis withdrew, but both teams collapsed.

Ina and Zimmerman had an unusually sloppy program - particularly for her. Normally so consistently solid, she fell on their triple toe loops and again on their throw triple salchow.

"I got off the ice and said to John, `I don't know what happened,"' Ina said. "I felt great. Just a fluke."

So was Scott pulling her right hip flexor during the warmups. They skated anyway, but she couldn't get any rotation on her jumps and crashed three times.

They also stumbled over their feet when Dulebohn didn't catch her on their triple twist.

"It was hard this year fighting for two spots," Ina said. "We're so much capable of more than we did tonight, it hurts to see us skating the way we did."

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Results from Wednesday

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 Jamie Sale and David Pelletier perfectly land the side by side triple toe loop.(Courtesy: ABC Sports).
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 ABC's Melissa Stark talks with Jamie Sale and David Pelletier after capturing the pairs title at the World Figure Skating Championships.
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