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Knock, knock, knock on wood

Up close with Dube and Davison

Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison.
Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison. (Getty Images)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(01/12/2008) - Bryce Davison knocks on wood every time he talks about the smooth sailing he and pairs partner Jessica Dube have enjoyed so far this season.

Considering what the couple went through the last three years, the Canadian champion has good reason for invoking superstition to ward off bad luck.

Assuming the stars remain aligned in their favor the next few days, when Dube and Davison step onto the ice on Friday to defend their national title in Vancouver it will mark the first time since the couple's national junior title-winning 2003-04 season that she hasn't lost substantial training time to injuries and surgeries in the run-up to the championships.

As if those challenges hadn't been enough, last February the newly crowned Canadian champions suffered a horrible accident at the Four Continents Championships in Colorado Springs. Davison's skate blade gashed Dube's face after they got too close on their side-by-side spin, forcing their withdrawal from the competition.

"This year's been pretty good so far. Knock on wood. We've been pretty healthy and we're looking forward to staying that way," Davison said in a conference call with Canadian media this week.

Having had the luxury - for them, anyway - of being able to train through the summer and fall, Dube, 20, and Davison, 21, came flying out of the starting blocks at Skate America, winning gold ahead of China's former world champions. Qing Pang and Jian Tong. A silver medal a week later at Skate Canada earned them their first trip to the Grand Prix Final, where they finished fourth.

Dube and Davison, who came back from their accident last February to finish seventh at the World Championships in March, are the odds on favorites to repeat as champions in Vancouver next week, but they aren't taking a win for granted.

"From the national team, anyone could step up and have a great skate and we could find ourselves in third or lower," Davison warned. "Also, add the new team of Craig (Buntin)and Meghan (Duhamel), who are very explosive. It's going to be a good event and we're really excited about it."

Given that Canada has three Worlds berths in pairs, it is highly unlikely that Dube and Davison will not be making the trip to Sweden in March. Their goal is to move into the top five there. A fourth-place would be ideal, they say, a "stepping block" to the medal podium which is where they want to be come 2010.

At this point, the young couple admit they are lacking the goods needed to match the top three couples in the world: the Germans and the Chinese. They plan to up the technical ante by including a triple twist in the near future, and another side-by-side triple jump. They have also attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, a throw triple Lutz this season.

Davison feels they have improved their speed, but that is something they will continue to work on, as well: "We need more of the 'it' factor in movements so people in the top level can see it just as well as the judges," he added, concluding his assessment of their weaknesses.

Asked about the added pressure that comes with being the defending Canadian champions, Davison said that their confidence level has risen courtesy of their strong showings on the fall Grand Prix circuit.

"We're not the kids that are just happy to be there anymore. We just can't be happy with that and Jess and I realize that. We want to be among the best and competing with the best and compete with them to win - eventually, not right now - but that's where we want to take ourselves." Because Davison was not partnerless for long periods of time last summer and fall, he didn't have his usual couple of months to work on his singles routines, and decided not to try to qualify to compete in the senior men's event this year.

A determined Dube, on the other hand, did qualify and is excited about challenging the top senior women. With good performances, Dube believes she could finish top-five and earn a spot on the national team as a singles skater, as well as in pairs.

On the way to Vancouver from their Montreal training base, Dube and Davison were considering a two-day stop off in Edmonton to work with 2002 Olympic champions Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. They have provided guidance in the past, helping to enhance Dube and Davison's stage presence and adding the little nuances that make a good pair a great one.

Sale and Pelletier, who also work with medal contenders Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay, will be in Vancouver, as well. The hugely popular couple, whose fame skyrocketed with the Salt Lake Olympics, will be just as busy as the competitors.

The new parents of three-month-old Jesse are commentators for CBC television, will be inducted into Canada's figure skating Hall of Fame on the final day of the 2008 Championships, and will also perform in the closing exhibition gala.