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Rochette wins at Skate Canada

Canadian champion Joannie Rochette, buried in fifth place after the short program, rallied to capture the ladies' title at Skate Canada Saturday night in Victoria.

Canadian champion Joannie Rochette, who was fifth after the short program, rallied with the best free-skating program Saturday and grabbed the women's title at Skate Canada in Victoria.

Later, world champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland vaulted from seventh placeto win themen's gold.

It was surprise after surprise at the $180,000 US International figure skating meet.

Rochette, 20, of Ile Dupas, Que., made only one error, getting around only once on a planned triple loop jump. But she landed five other triples cleanly, as well as three triple-double combos, and her spins, step sequences and artistry made her the right choice for the $18,000 first prize.

"I thought, 'Do one thing at a time, one element at a time, and just do it for yourself and don't worry about what the others do,"' she said.

Rochette's free skating and overall points totals were personal bests, which was an impressive feat considering it was her first meet of the new season. She got a standing ovation after her flamenco routine to music from Felix Gray's Don Juan.

Olympics in her sights

"It felt great, especially since it's in Canada," she said. "Before I went to take my starting pose, I was so nervous because the crowd was really, really loud but I kept telling myself that every time I have an opportunity to perform at home it's an opportunity to prepare for the 2010 Olympics."

Rochette's next GP assignment is in Paris, Nov. 16-19.

Japan's Fumie Suguri, 25, won $13,000 for finishing second and short program winner Yu-Na Kim, 16, of South Korea, took the $9,000 third prize.

The prize amounts were similar in the men's event. Japanese champion Daisuke Takahashi, the leader after the short skate, wound up second, and U.S. Johnny Weir dropped one spot to third overall.

Spark missing

Suguri —the 2006 world silver medallist in Calgary where Rochette finished fifth —was technically sound enough with five triples to get second-best free-skating marks but she lacked Rochette's spark.

"I wasn't in really good condition before I came here," Suguri said. "I did not know how much I could do at this competition."

Defending champion Alissa Czisny, 19, of the United States, finished fourth and took home $3,000, as did Shawn Sawyer, 21, of Edmunston, N.B., on the men's side.

Lambiel doubled a triple Axel, stumbled out of a quad, fell on another quad attempt and doubled a scheduled triple flip in reprising the program that won him a second straight world title in Calgary last March. His new long program isn't ready yet.

Still, he was good enough for gold given the poor showings by Takahashi and Weir.

"I was not in very good shape before coming here," Lambiel said. "I think it was because last season was a big year for me — the Grand Prix events, the Grand Prix final, the Europeans, the Olympics, the world championships and then the tour with Champions on Ice.

"It was a huge season for me, and there was the [knee] injury before the Olympics. That's why the beginning of this season is maybe not the best I can do but it's a first try, and my first competition has never been a good competition. But I have to start somewhere, and I'm proud of this competition even if I'm not the Stephane Lambiel you've seen before."

Edmonton's Vaughn Chipeur, 21, finished seventh and Marc Andre Craig, 24, of Sherbrooke, Que., was eighth among 11. Chipeur, a last-minute sub,was 16th at the nationals last January and little was expected of him at this, his first senior international.

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