Originally created 02/16/02

Canadians: Gold medal rights a wrong



TORONTO -- Tears of joy and a prime minister's congratulations welcomed Friday's belated Olympic gold medals for Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

A nation enraged by the perceived injustice to the pairs skaters gave its collective nod of satisfaction to the International Olympic Committee decision that Sale and Pelletier would join Russians skaters Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze as gold medallists.

Misconduct by a French judge brought the upgrading of Sale and Pelletier from silver to gold, according to the International Skating Union.

In Edmonton, Alberta, Sale's mother cried happily when she heard IOC President Jacques Rogge's announcement on TV at the rink where Sale trains. Patti Siegel immediately was on a cellphone to her daughter, tears streaking her cheeks.

Later, though, she expressed regret that the Canadians had to wait four days to be declared champions.

"I'm not really overjoyed," she said. "The fact that it has to come this way really is not the same. I'm sorry, but it's not. They took their moment away. The celebration of a first place should be once."

Jacques Pelletier, David's father, said the IOC decision created the proper record of the Salt Lake City Olympics.

"It wasn't a flash in the pan," he said of the performance by Sale and his son. "He's won his last 10 competitions and the Russians were in some of those. The symbol of what (the gold medal) represents is extremely important."

Prime Minister Jean Chretien, on a trade mission to Russia, said from Moscow that the IOC decision "merely confirms what we all knew in our hearts."

"It is a triumph for the incredible sportsmanship and class that Jamie Sale and David Pelletier have shown in the face of an extraordinary situation," Chretien said in a statement. "They are Olympians in the truest sense. They have done themselves, their families and their country proud."

He also said he expected no friction at a weekend lunch date with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"He won't be upset," Chretien said. "He has gold and I have gold so we will celebrate gold."

Across the country, Canadians seemed relieved the episode was over after overwhelming media coverage since Monday. Now they could focus on the nation's main Olympic interest - men's hockey - with Canada playing its first game later Friday.

While happy for Sale and Pelletier, Canadian Olympics and skating officials said they hoped the episode would help prevent a recurrence

Mike Chambers, president of the Canadian Olympic Association, praised the IOC and the ISU for resolving the issue but said the decision left untreated the "chronic disease" of unfair judging.

Jan Ullmark, who coaches Sale and Pelletier, was more concerned about his skaters. On the phone to them from Edmonton, he asked about the plans for getting their gold medals at a Feb. 21 ceremony.

"Tell them I think it should be a total ceremony, even if it's just for you two, at the plaza with the anthem," Ullmark said. "They can't just give it to you. There should be a proper celebration and a proper medal ceremony."