SALT LAKE CITY – As the strains of the Canadian anthem filled the arena, tears glistened in Jamie Sale's eyes, but her smile never wavered.
It took a week, but she and pairs figure skating partner David Pelletier finally had their moment — and their gold medals.
Standing on the podium next to co-champions Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia, the Canadians accepted the gold that was awarded last week in an extraordinary move by the International Olympic Committee.
As Sale and Pelletier accepted their medals from International Skating Union president Ottavio Cinquanta, the standing crowd roared. But the magnitude of the moment didn't seem to sink in for either skater until "O, Canada" played.
"This was better than I expected," Pelletier said. "I think the four of us were part of history and that was something."
As the Canadian flag rose beside the Russian flag, tears of joy filled Sale's eyes and Pelletier began blinking rapidly, as if to keep from crying.
When a camera closed in on Sale, her grin spread a little wider and she winked.
When the anthem finished, the couples turned to the cheering crowd, waving their yellow roses in acknowledgment. Pelletier and Sikharulidze hugged, and Berezhnaya and Sale did, too.
Then Pelletier put his arms around Berezhnaya as if they were best of friends.
Hardly the picture of two couples who had been pitted against each other in a week of turmoil and bitterness.
Sale and Pelletier, who are also a couple off the ice, finished second to Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze by the slimmest of margins, losing 5-4 in the pairs free skate last Monday.
Boos rained down at the Salt Lake Ice Center when the marks flashed, and Pelletier buried his head in his hands as Sale cried. Both wept as they stood on the podium and listened to the Russian national anthem, silver medals around their necks.
The tears Sunday night were different.
"Obviously it's been a tough few days but now we are happy to put some closure to it and we can go on and be happy with it — our gold medal," Pelletier said.
Skating has a long history of questionable decisions, but this one was bigger than any other.
When French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne admitted she'd been pressured to put the Russians first, the ISU knew it had to do something extraordinary. At the ISU's request, the IOC on Friday awarded a second gold medal to Sale and Pelletier, making them co-champions.
"It is an exit out of a situation there isn't really an exit out of," Valentin Piseyev, chairman of the Russian Figure Skating Federation, said before the ceremony.
Sale and Pelletier originally were supposed to get their gold medals Thursday night — bumping up against the women's free skate. But not even the darlings of Salt Lake City could interfere with that.
Five minutes after the original dance ended, the two couples — dressed in their national warm-up suits — appeared in an entry way just off the ice. Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze were already wearing the burnished gold medals that Sale and Pelletier had come to collect.
At first, it didn't look like a momentous occasion. While the Olympic anthem played, Pelletier and Sikharulidze chatted like two schoolboys in the back of the room.
As the couples were introduced — "Welcome to the gold medalists! — Berezhnaya and Sale smiled at each other. And when they climbed the podium, the two women did so hand in hand, pulling the other's arms up like a prize fighter to acknowledge the crowd.
Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze had worried about how they would be received, but within minutes it was clear the reception would be grand.
Then, finally, it was Sale and Pelletier's turn, and the crowd responded with a roar that shook the building.