Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Virden's Lawrence earns bronze in pairs at nationals

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AFTER suffering a concussion in a training mishap just before Christmas, Virden-based pairs skater Paige Lawrence had a tough choice to make ahead of the fast-approaching Canadian figure skating championships. Should she avoid all risk and withdraw from the competition, or stay in the game to keep her and partner Rudi Swiegers' season-long goals alive?

Lawrence, 21, chose the latter and, this past weekend in Moncton, delivered two gutsy performances that earned her and Swiegers a second consecutive nationals podium finish, again in bronze medal position.

"We're both really excited about how the weekend went. We didn't achieve our goal of making top 2 (and the world team), so it's a bittersweet victory," said Swiegers, 24. "There were some complications earlier in the week with the concussion that we had to deal with, but Paige did very well and I'm very proud of her."

They also garnered a trip to the ISU Four Continents Championships in Colorado Springs next month. During the two weeks they have to prepare, Lawrence and Swiegers will manage their training to ensure she is ready to compete again. Last season, the pair won bronze at Four Continents, posting career-best scores.

On Sunday, Lawrence preferred to talk about their performance rather than her injury.

"It's really not a big deal. I've dealt with it and skated with it and it's not something we want to focus on," she said.

"We tried not to treat the situation any differently. We wanted to move up (from fourth after the short program) to be medallists, if not top 2 to go to Worlds, so we just had to focus on each element as it came and make everything happen as best we could. Overall, I think Rudi and I carried ourselves respectably and we're happy with everything."

Lawrence has always been a tough cookie -- most women in the inherently dangerous pairs discipline are. She comes by her grit honestly, having grown up in Kennedy, Sask., watching her father and older brother compete in the rough-and-tumble world of rodeo competition.

The gold medal went to Ontarians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who had tried for years to reach the national pinnacle with a succession of partners. They won decisively with 190.11, some 20 points ahead of Jessica Dube and Sebastien Wolfe (171.60), of Quebec, and Lawrence and Swiegers (168.84).

Meanwhile, Manitoba's entries in the women's event -- Kate Charbonneau, of Skate Winnipeg, and Kaleigh Hole, representing the Virden club -- ranked sixth and 12th, respectively.

Both 18-year-olds moved up in the standings with strong final free skate performances, but their overall placements reflected costly errors each made in the opener.

"I feel like I skated my heart out in my long program, even though I missed a couple of things," Charbonneau said, reflecting on two missed triple jumps. "It was my highest score ever, so I was really happy with that."

Quebec's Amelie Lacoste just edged 2011 champ Cynthia Phaneuf for the women's crown.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 23, 2012 C5

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