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  • Tuesday, March 23, 1999

    Sandhu in free-skating final this time

    By NEIL STEVENS -- Canadian Press
     HELSINKI (CP) -- This time, Emanuel Sandhu gets to skate in the big show, which is where he belongs.
     Last year, in his world figure skating championship debut, he didn't skate to his potential in the short program and missed the cut to compete in the free-skating final in Minneapolis.
     But on Tuesday, the 18-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., skated his way into Thursday's final with a solid short program choreographed to reflect his East Indian heritage.
     "It was better than last year so it was a step forward," he said.
     The judges placed him 20th among 30 skaters. He deserved to be higher, although he wasn't complaining.
     "It shows you have to work hard and prove your consistency," he said of the judges' conservative marks, which ranged from 4.0 to 4.6 for technical merit and from 4.5. to 5.2 for artistic impression.
     "That sets a good backbone for your career. You have a certain base you can rely on."
     Said his coach of 10 years, Joanne McLeod: "He's got to prove himself a few more times in a world stage, and then they're going to bank out those 5.9s, 5.8s."
     Sandhu landed a triple Axel-triple toe loop to fulfill his combination-jump requirement.
     "It was step one out of the way and then I just had to move on," he said. "I've been doing my Axels consistently but it was a relief to get the big one out of the way."
     There was a deduction for doubling a scheduled triple Lutz.
     "Just a little loss of focus," he explained.
     He finished with his unique Sandhu spin in which he spreads his arms to his ankles as if they were elastic bands. The move drew yells of approval.
     "It's been flattering that people have tried to copy it," said Sandhu.
     "It's not easy to do," said McLeod. "You have to have tons of flexibility."
     Dozens of Canadian flags were waving when he finished spinning.
     "At home you notice them more because there a thousand million more of them out there than there are at this venue," he said in reference to the small crowd. "But the (Canadian) contingency here is definitely supportive. It probably makes up the majority of the audience."
     Sandhu performed his short program to music from Kama Sutra, composed by Mychael Danna of Toronto.
     Sandhu studied at the National Ballet School in Toronto until he turned 16, when he decided to concentrate on skating. Sandhu's father is of East Indian descent and his mother is Italian.
     "Emanuel is quite exceptional at music interpretation," McLeod said of the piece. "People are calling him the ballet person on ice."
     As usual, he spent quiet time before competing. He shys away from referring to it as meditation.
     "I don't sit there like on a pillow and go, 'Om', smoke opium or something. No."
     It's just zeroing in on the task at hand, he said.
     "A lot of people try to get into themselves and focus all their thoughts and energies into this narrow stream so they can go out onto the ice and concentrate on what they have to do."

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