Sale and Pelletier settle for silver in pairs skate

"It's an embarrassment for our sport:" choreographer

From "Love Story" to heartbreak.

Despite skating an almost flawless long program in Monday night's showdown against the Russians, Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier fell just shy of Olympic gold.

Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, who were leading after Saturday night's short program, clinched the gold medal with top marks in the free-skating final, despite a serious stumble out of a jump.

China's Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao won the bronze.

"I thought we won, I really did," Sale told CBC-TV. "I thought for sure we had beaten the Russians. I knew that they had made a mistake."

Sale and Pelletier, who have beaten Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze at four of their last five meetings, were heavily favoured to win Canada's first figure skating gold medal in 42 years with their breathtaking "Love Story" routine.

The audience and commentators alike were utterly silent as the two skated their hearts out. Afterward, Pelletier knelt and kissed the ice, as the crowd screamed, clapped and chanted "Six! Six!" demanding perfect marks.

But in the end it cut no ice with the judges. Loud boos erupted after their marks were posted.

Tears streamed down Sale's cheeks as she and Pelletier stood on the podium with the Russian national anthem ringing in their ears.

"It's an embarrassment for our sport," said the pair's choreographer, Lori Nichol.

Moments later, after they stepped behind the curtain and away from the camera lens, Pelletier tore off his silver medal.

"It was like a big punch in the stomach," a clearly disappointed Pelletier told CBC afterward.

"Again!" added Sale, referring to a near-tragic mishap earlier in the evening.

During their warmup skate, just moments before their program was slated to begin, Sale collided hard with Sikharulidze in the centre of the ice. The Russian duo appeared to be preparing for a throw jump when they crossed paths and Sale slammed into him. Sale broke her fall by clinging to Sikharulidze's shirt as she went down, perhaps avoiding serious injury. She was visibly shaken, but did not require medical attention.

Sale, who was in tears behind the scenes, admitted that she was in pain during her skate.

"My stomach was hurting a lot after," she said, "and I was really trying to focus out on that.

"It's the first time I've done that, fight with being injured from such a freak accident during warmup. I was fighting until the end."

Skaters from Russia or the former Soviet Union have won all 10 Olympic pairs titles since 1960, when Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul won for Canada.