Dube and Davison flying high at worlds

Canadian pair tickled with outcome in Sweden

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


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By Laurie Nealin, special to
(03/20/2008) - What Jessica Dube remembers most about Jamie Sale and David Pelletier winning gold at the 2001 World Championships, is a jubilant Sale tossing a plush animal high into the air as their marks flashed on the scoreboard.

That animal -- which looked to be a pink pig -- never came back down to earth, at least not in view of the television cameras, not unlike Dube and her pairs partner Bryce Davison who were still floating Thursday, a day after unexpectedly winning bronze at the 2008 ISU World Figure Skating Championships.

"When we were on the podium, we were just so happy. We couldn't really believe it," said an elated Dube, 20, whose goal heading to Sweden had been a top-five finish.

"Even today, everyone is saying 'congratulations' and I think we're just not really realizing it yet," added Dube, speaking to via telephone from Sweden.

Dube and Davison's worlds medal was the first for Canadian pairs since Sale and Pelletier landed on the podium in Vancouver seven years ago; 11 months ahead of their 2002 Olympic victory.

"Now we can go back and go at next year a little more aggressively and know that we're at the top level in the pair world," Davison, 22, said. "Now we have to look at things to stay there and, hopefully, get even higher."

"Hopefully, this [medal] is a stepping stone towards that," Davison continued, referring to their desire to duplicate Sale and Pelletier's global successes.

Sale and Pelletier have tutored Dube and Davison on-and-off for the last couple of years, and are expected to continue to share their valuable expertise with the 2010 Olympic medal hopefuls in the months leading to Vancouver.

All-in-all, it was a great week for Canada's pairs contingent in Sweden, with Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin and Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay finishing sixth and eighth, respectively, a rare but not unheard of success rate for Canadian pairs.

In 1984 and 1985, the country's contingent enjoyed similar success: one medal -- gold courtesy of Barb Underhill and Paul Martini in '84, and bronze from Katerina Matousek and Lloyd Eisler in '85 -- plus top-eight finishes from their teammates.

At these worlds, Canada was the only country with three couples ranking in the top 10. Along with traditional contenders China and Russia, Canada can send three pairs to the 2009 Worlds in Los Angeles as a result.

"We had a celebration [Wednesday] night with all the Canadian teams. Everyone skated really well and we were really proud of having three in the top eight," Dube said.

Davison added, "That was awesome. One of our main goals coming here as a team, was to keep our three spots for pairs next year and we're just super happy with that; and hopefully we can build on our placements next year."

Dube and Davison's charming "Blower's Daughter" free skate program, which vaulted them ahead of the Russians, is reminiscent of Sale and Pelletier's iconic Love Story, also choreographed by Lori Nichol. Both programs showcased the magical connection between the skaters, and seamlessly wove required elements into the choreography.

Overall, the Canadians' free program performance was ranked second best of the night, behind gold medalists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany. Outscoring both Chinese couples in the final skate, including first round leaders Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang who claimed silver, proved to Dube and Davison that their Olympic dream is on track.

Still, their fifth-best component scores did not seem to reflect the finesse with which they performed their program, although that fact did not surprise Davison.

"Our component marks are normally lower than the rest of the teams'. We're not exactly sure why but, hopefully with time, that's one of the things that starts to grow. The more of a reputation, your component marks start to raise," he explained, contrary to what officials have insisted would not be the case with the new scoring system.

Thanks to their bronze medal, Dube and Davison are expected to join the Canadian Stars on Ice tour for several of the show dates in Ontario.

The 2007 Canadian champions, seventh in the world in their previous two outings, enjoyed their first injury-free season in four years, and made the most of their training time.

"That was a big difference for us this year. I'm just so glad I didn't have anything wrong with me this year," said Dube, who has endured knee surgeries, a cracked wrist, and the infamous gash to her face 13 months ago at Four Continents.

Unfortunately, their teammates were not so lucky this season.

Buntin skated this week with the aid of painkillers to dull the ache in his injured shoulder. He will have surgery next week to repair the torn labral tendon and damaged rotator cuff.

Still, neither the drugs nor the elation of a sixth-place showing after just 10 months together with his new partner, could erase the physical pain Buntin felt at the end of their dramatic Tosca finale. Buntin figures he will not be able to do any lifts for four months after surgery, but that's okay, he said. He and Duhamel will devote that added time to working on moves that will enhance their style, to help them gel as a couple.

"I think we've got big things in front of us," Buntin optimistically told journalists in Sweden.

Choking back tears of joy, Duhamel added, "A year ago, I was watching worlds on TV and I didn't know if I'd even still be skating."

As for Langlois and Hay, after stealing the Canadian crown from Dube and Davison, Langlois had to deal with an excruciatingly painful cracked rib and kidney stones, which forced them out of ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

Neither of those injuries was a factor this week, Langlois said, although she told journalists Hay was suffering from a stomach ailment during their two days of competition