ALSO ON SLAM!
Wednesday, March 17, 1999
Worlds of hope for dancing duo
The Minto Skating Club-based ice dance couple believes the time is right for them to make a major step forward at the world figure skating championships, which begin Tuesday in Helsinki, Finland.
"If we don't make a move (upward) now, something's wrong," said a confident Brunet, 28, of Gatineau earlier this week. "Obviously, there should be improvement in our placing at worlds. But cross your fingers."
Now, if this all sounds familiar ... well, Lefebvre and Brunet were hoping for the same thing at the last two world championships. They were 20th in 1997 in Lausanne, and advanced only one spot a year ago in Minneapolis. It was anything but encouraging.
But there are major signs the time for their big breakthrough is truly at hand. Lefebvre and Brunet finished the Grand Prix series ranked 14th, and beat a team rated two spots higher (Americans Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev) at the Four Continents event last month in Halifax, winning their first international medal in the process.
Besides the silver medal, they received marks as high as 5.7 (out of 6.0) from a panel of international judges. That really opened up the couple's eyes.
"That really helped our confidence," said Lefebvre, 21, of LaSalle, Que.
"We've been training really hard for four years now, and we knew the Americans had improved a lot, too ... (beating them) was a nice boost for us."
So how high can they go? Brunet believes he and Lefebvre could finish anywhere between eighth and 15th, "although eighth is pushing it."
"But I really believe we are close to the top 10. If we're not in it, we'll have one foot in (the door) ... we'll have some judges saying we deserve it."
Lefebvre and Brunet are heading to Finland knowing their tango free dance and popular waltz original dance (It's a Most Unusual Day) have received strong critical reviews. They had to compose a new Paso Doble compulsory for worlds, but Brunet calls it "the strongest first dance we've ever done."
While they realize having such lofty aims might be setting themselves up for major disappointment again, Brunet says it's the only way they can think right now. They know their skating has vastly improved, and shows a higher level of maturity.
Said Brunet: "If we come back home knowing that we went for it, knowing that we gave it our best shot, we're not going to be disappointed."
TAKING A FLYER:
Lefebvre and Brunet will have at least one interested cheerleader in Philadelphia next week. Flyers' forward Mark Recchi helped the skaters' cause a few months back by agreeing to sponsor them to the tune of $10,000 (they've already received half the money). Brunet and Recchi struck up a friendship at the Nagano Winter Olympics last year, and when the then-Canadiens' star learned of the couple's financial struggles, he wanted to help out. "We're really thankful to Mark Recchi for doing this for us," said Brunet, a life-long Habs' fan who dreamed of playing for the team as a youth.