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2002 Salt Lake City: Salé and Pelletier

On skates and skis and snowboards, Canadians are nothing short of spectacular. From cocky snowboarder Ross Rebagliati to shy speed skater Gaétan Boucher to prairie girl Sandra Schmirler, Canada has groomed some of the finest winter athletes to take the world stage. CBC Archives presents a selection of Canada's golden winter Olympians.

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When figure skaters Jamie Salé and David Pelletier take to the ice, spectators almost break into a sweat, explains commentator Debbie Wilkes. The practically perfect pair has been exciting audiences, moving in absolute synchronicity and skating with emotion and flair. But it wasn't always this way; in fact, Salé and Pelletier teamed up in a last-ditch attempt to save their fledgling skating careers. This CBC Radio documentary chronicles the skaters' rapid ascent and personal chemistry. 
• At the 2002 Olympics, Salé and Pelletier skated their Love Story program flawlessly and were considered a shoo-in for gold after the Russian team of Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaia made obvious technical errors in their free skate. In a 5-4 decision, the judges awarded the gold to Sikharulidze and Berezhnaia. Shocked fans booed the results and a larger public outcry followed.

• The French judge, Marie-Reine Le Gougne, later admitted that she was pressured to vote for the Russian pair and an investigation followed. Six days after their performance, Salé and Pelletier were awarded gold medals in tandem with the Russians.

• At the height of the scandal, Salé and Pelletier became instant celebrities. The photogenic couple was on the covers of newspapers around the world. When the pair visited the Tonight Show, host Jay Leno enthusiastically welcomed the Canadians and said, "This is what you should have heard and seen last night." Leno then ran backstage and fetched a Canadian flag as the band played the Canadian national anthem.

• Sale and Pelletier were named flag bearers for the closing ceremonies at the 2002 Olympics.
• Although they had planned to compete in the World Championships following the Olympics, Salé and Pelletier withdrew. The Canadian pair explained that the Olympic whirlwind had drained them and at the end of the season, Salé and Pelletier retired from amateur competition.

• Before teaming up, Salé and Pelletier had unspectacular skating histories. Salé skated with Jason Turner at the 1994 Olympics and failed to break the top 10, finishing 12th. Over the course of his career, Pelletier skated with three other partners before he teamed up with Salé. When Salé and Pelletier finally teamed up in 1998 they had very little on the line - Salé was employed at the Second Cup and Pelletier worked the concession stands in Montreal's Molson Centre.

• "She was always the girl everybody wanted to skate with in Canada," Pelletier told CBC of his partner. "When we ended up skating together it was nerve-racking for me because I seriously thought that I was not good enough for her and I had to improve a lot, because in my eyes, she is the best."

• In 2001, Salé and Pelletier were awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's top athletes by Canadian sportswriters.
• David Pelletier was born on Nov. 22, 1974, in Sayabec, Que. He was briefly married to Marie-Josée Fortin. Jamie Salé was born on April 21, 1977, in Calgary, Alta.
Medium: Radio
Program: The Inside Track
Broadcast Date: May 6, 2001
Guests: Richard Gauthier, David Pelletier, Jamie Salé, Debbie Wilkes
Host: Robin Brown
Reporter: Suzanne Blake
Duration: 6:29
This clip has been edited for copyright reasons.

Last updated: December 23, 2014

Page consulted on December 23, 2014

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