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  • Monday, April 6, 1998

    Bourne, Kraatz saved Worlds

    BY ROB BRODIE -- OTTAWA SUN
      MINNEAPOLIS -- What if they held a world figure skating championships and most of the stars stayed home?
     You'd have what we got this week at the Target Center.
     The good folks here in Minneapolis did do a wonderful job of organizing these championships, and put together a show worthy of the world's best.
     Too bad so many of them weren't here to deliver for them on the ice. And the ones that did ... well, only a precious few were able to weave something magic during this week.
     Thank heavens for Canadian ice dancers Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz.
     In a championships starving for energy, Bourne and Kraatz's performance of Riverdance in Friday's free dance final provided a clear, defining moment that will stay with everyone who was a part of it for a long time yet. It was that riveting, that special, one of those wonderful Canadian moments on ice that will remain utterly unforgettable.
     And here's some good news for skating fans: it's likely you'll get to see it one more time during the Stars On Ice tour. The popular three-time world bronze medallists will hit all the Canadian stops this year, including April 29 at the Corel Centre.
     As a competitive number, though, Riverdance has seen its last day.
     "We're definitely going to do it on tour, because people want to see it," Bourne, 22, of Chatam said yesterday. "But I think every year, what makes ice dancing special is that you have to show versatility, that you can do different things. I think we proved we can do this.
     "(Riverdance) is always going to be one of our signature programs but I think now we have to find something even better."
     
     UNCERTAINTY LIES AHEAD: If anyone can top Riverdance, it's Bourne and Kraatz.
     But whether they'll be topping it as amateurs or professionals remains to be seen. Bourne said yesterday it's too soon for the duo to decide what will happen in the year ahead -- or whether they'll be on hand for the 1999 Canadian championships in Ottawa. "We haven't confirmed anything yet to this point," she said. "(Being) here at worlds was our long-term goal when we got together in 1991. Now that we've come to this meet, we need to sit down and set our new goals. We haven't done that yet."
     
     THE LONGEST DANCE: While Nagano was frustrating, this week wasn't much better -- at least when it came to placings.
     Just don't try telling Chantal Lefebvre and Michel Brunet their season hasn't been good.
     "It's been a long, long road," said Brunet, 27, of Gatineau. "To top this year, we'd need to start (working at it) tomorrow for next year. That's how good it went this year. If we hadn't have made it to the Olympics, I was going to quit and Chantal would have ended up alone ... we would have been so far behind, and we're just starting to get better."
     Added coach Eric Loucks of the Minto Skating Club: "We set long-term goals for them, and they met every one of them. The way they're going, they are going to be in the top 10 eventually. We may need to get some help from other couples retiring, but it is going to happen."
     
     CANUCK PRIDE HITS TARGET: There was no getting away from those Roots Canadian Olympic hats. They were everywhere at the Target Center this week. So, too, were an abundance of Canadian flags and fans, which had Russian men's champion Alexei Yagudin asking during the free dance final: "Are we in the U.S. or in Canada?"
     Without the Canadians in the crowd, this event might've seemed downright boring. There were 2,000-3,000 Canucks at the arena every night, and attendance cracked 10,000 on three occasions.
     "The Canadian support was absolutely magnificent -- they absolutely made this event," said Peter Dunfield, coach of Canadian ladies' champion Angela Derochie of Carlsbad Springs. "It was fabulous. Nobody supports skating better anywhere else in the world."
     
     CASHING IN: More than medals were on the line this week. There was cold, hard cash, too -- a total prize pot of $937,500 US, to be exact. Three local skaters got a piece of the pie: Jeff Langdon of Smiths Falls earned $7,500 for his eighth-place finish, while Lefebvre and Brunet will split $3,750. Derochie took home $2,500. Bourne and Kraatz's bronze medal was worth $30,000, the biggest Canadian haul by far.



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