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  • Thursday, March 30, 2000

    Pair in despair

    Pelletier, Sale fall apart with gold medal in their reach

    By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

      NICE, France -- The door was wide open for Jamie Sale and David Pelletier to win the gold medal yesterday.

     But alas, Pelletier, performing to the theme from Love Story, couldn't carry his partner across the threshold.

     Skating last in the pairs free skate, Sale and Pelletier, who were third after Monday's short program, took to the Palais des Exposition ice with a chance to win it all at their first world figure skating championships.

     FOUR MINOR MISTAKES

     Skating just before the Canadians, Chinese couple Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao -- who were first after the short -- had a decent but not flawless program. They committed four minor mistakes and were given scores of 5.7 and 5.8. The Chinese were placed second behind Russians Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov, who moved up from second after the short.

     The Canadian team, which had dazzled judges and audiences all season, needed a near-perfect routine to pull off a first-place finish. If any program could do it, it was Love Story -- a number that had earned perfect scores of 6.0 at the nationals and at the Four Continents Cup, which Sale and Pelletier won.

     However, yesterday they fell apart. Or, at least, Sale did. On the first element, a side-by-side triple toe, Sale two-footed. That obviously threw her off and the Red Deer, Alta., native proceeded to single a planned double axel and then singled a second.

     "I don't have too many thoughts right now, I'm just really disappointed with myself," Sale, 22, said before breaking down.

     Perhaps worse than losing the gold, though the American judge still awarded them first-place marks, was dropping to fourth from third and off the medal podium. The Canadians' collapse resulted in France's Sarah Abitbol and Stephane Bernadis winning the bronze. They were fourth after the short.

     Bernadis, who reportedly was slashed by a nut outside his hotel room on Tuesday, milked the audience and judges for all it was worth, feigning tears of grief and joy before and after the skate. Afterward, the melodramatics continued.

     "What you saw on the ice was the truth," said Bernadis, his face a kaleidoscope of emotions, real or otherwise. "And my injury was the truth too, as you can see. Sarah and I proved that we are great champions."

     To their credit, Abitbol and Bernadis did skate well, making only one major mistake -- Abitbol falling on a throw triple loop.

     For Sale and Pelletier, the reward is knowing that their long-term future is bright.

     "We're not going to stay down," Pelletier, 25, of Sayabec, Que., said. "No way. You come and see me (today) and I'll be happy and I'll have a big smile on my face, because I'll (be going) to to the beach.

     "Sport is life and I'm happy to do a sport that teaches me about life. And this is nothing compared to what life can bring you.

     "We're fourth in the world. Last year, we were nothing."



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