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Rochette makes it four in a row

Joannie Rochette won her fourth Canadian ladies title.
Joannie Rochette won her fourth Canadian ladies title. (Getty Images)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(01/20/2008) - Joannie Rochette accomplished what no other defending champion managed to do this week at the BMO Canadian Championships: she added a fourth national gold medal to her collection.

Earlier Jeff Buttle and pairs Jessica Dube and Bryce Davision relinquished their crowns, but Rochette significantly outdistanced her competitors this week with good, yet -- by her own assessment -- not great performances.

Mira Leung claimed silver for the third consecutive year, while 2004 Canadian champion Cynthia Phaneuf climbed back onto the podium for the first time since 2005.

Rochette put 175.76 points in total on the scoreboard. Leung collected 162.10 and Phaneuf 158.10.

Lesley Hawker finished fourth with the second best program of the day, but with a shaky seventh-place start, her combined total was not enough for a medal.

Rochette came here intending to deliver her own personal best performances, but that did not happen. Still, she said, finishing first "feels great."

"If I had come second, it would have given me a little kick in the bum, and if I'm first it gives me confidence. There's the two stories there," she suggested.

"Just knowing that I can pull it off even not feeling your best; knowing that when something goes wrong, you can still do it. I'm glad about that," said Rochette who got six triples done but fell on her triple Lutz.

The women's event was held Sunday morning. The early start was not what many competitors were used to.

"I'm not a morning person. I hate mornings," Rochette said. "But you have to be able to do your job, any time at any hour of the day."

Leung, who singled a double Axel, and popped a planned triple flip into a single," said, "I'm really disappointed with my mistakes, but I'm happy with the rest of the program."

It's been a long road back for Phaneuf since she shocked veteran Jennifer Robinson to win the title at age 15. After that, injuries, surgeries and a major growth spurt thwarted her ambitions at every turn.

"I was very happy. I was skating great," said Phaneuf, who was fourth a year ago. "I was very confident and I had fun on the ice. For sure, it wasn't the best program but I'm very happy.

"I wasn't as nervous as I was last year, so it was fun for me to skate at the competition this year," added Phaneuf, who skates with superior elegance.

She showed five triples in her beautiful "Claire de Lune" program to climb from fourth in the short onto the podium.

The women's event brought to a close the 2008 championships held in Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum, site of the 2010 Olympic Games.

Later on Sunday in an emotion-filled ceremony, 2002 Olympic and 2001 World pairs champions Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame.

A masterful video montage of their career which played on the arena videotron had Sale and Pelletier, athletes, coaches, and audience members in tears. The couple, now married and parents of a baby boy, continue to perform on Stars on Ice tours in the U.S. and Canada.