Story Highlights• Skating pair back on ice after devastating accident slashed her face
• Recovery emotional as well as physical for Jessica Dube, Bryce Davison
• Slash took 80 stitches to close; barely visible today
By Amy Burkholder
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MONTREAL, Quebec (CNN) -- Their story reads like a figure skating fairy tale: Jessica Dube, a 19-year-old, French-speaker, and at 4 feet 11, a pixie princess. The handsome Bryce Davison, 21, was her English-speaking prince. Among Canada's top-ranked pairs skaters, they just clicked.
"We couldn't speak each other's languages -- we just knew what the other was thinking on the ice," explains Davison. "All it took was a glance at each other's eyes and we knew what was going on."
Dube and Davison placed in the Top 10 at last year's World Figure Skating Championships and had every ambition for a top spot at the Four Continents Ice Skating Championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in February.
But that's when, in mid-spin, Davison's skate hit Dube's face. (Watch skater slash his partner's face )
On ESPN's exclusive video of the February 8 accident, the audience audibly gasps as one moment the pair are side by side in a "camel spin," a move judged by its spectacular speed and how close they get; and the next moment, Dube collapses in sobs, blood staining the ice.
For months, the brutal accident played on YouTube. Now back on the ice, the skaters are talking about their recovery -- emotional as well as physical -- after the devastating accident.
"We were skating the best we've skated our long program all year and all of a sudden -- maybe there was a lapse in our focus," recalls Davison. "The half-revolution before my skate hit her face, I knew we were too close."
The skate, which has two blades just millimeters apart, was estimated to be going 40 mph when it slashed Dube's face.
Pumped full of morphine, Dube was rushed to Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, where she was met by facial trauma surgeon J. Christopher Pruitt. She'd already lost a lot of blood from the gash, which was nearly four inches long, stretching across the bridge of her nose and onto her cheek -- and deep.
"You could do a similar cut with a knife blade being slashed across the face," says Pruitt. "Fortunately, the wound occurred along 'relaxed skin tension lines.' Those tend to heal with less conspicuous scars. We were able to get it back together with a good degree of accuracy." Pruitt closed the wound in layers with some 80 stitches. Dube was back on the ice within 10 days. But the injury required more than physical healing. Dube and Davison required post-traumatic stress counseling, painfully reliving the accident.
"In pairs skating where the man is supposed to be the protector, and protect his partner, I had to deal with the guilt," says Davison. "It wasn't anything where we fell on a lift or anything like that. I hit her."
Dube says the emotional healing process was far harder for Davison. Recalling the gaping wound, and those paralyzing moments on the ice Dube says: "He saw my face and had bad memories. Making sure Bryce knew it wasn't his fault, that's what we worked on."
"There's a lot of ambiguity surrounding an accident like this, who did what, who felt what," explains sports neuropsychologist Dr. David Coppel, who works with the U.S. Figure Skating Association. "They have to find their way back to a communication place and begin anew."
Having wrapped up therapy, there's still one question this figure skating pair can't, or won't answer: Who got too close that day?
"I don't know. Just bad luck I guess?" sighs Dube.
As for lasting effects, Dube hasn't experienced facial nerve damage and doesn't think she'll need further reconstructive work but says she may have laser surgery once a full year has elapsed to smooth the edges of her scar. "It's already way better. You can't even see it on TV," Dube gushes. "I'm happy with that."
Back on the ice at a practice rink in St. Jolie, Canada, there's a striking mix of lightness, and a fierceness of concentration to this pair: an awareness of how serious this injury was, and what the career-ending consequences could have been. "(The blade) could have gone in her eye, or it could have hit her jugular," says Davison, looking deeply at Dube. "I didn't think about the skating too much, just whether she was going to be OK."
There's one four-letter word they won't let come between them: Fear. Dube is adamant: "You can't allow yourself to think it's going to happen again, you can't be afraid all the time. You just have to go out there and do it, that's it."
As proof that they're back, Dube and Davison placed seventh in the 2007 World Figure Skating Championships in Tokyo last month, the same position as last year -- so they haven't lost ground.
They believe the accident has left them stronger. "All good pair teams go through accidents on their way to greatness," reflects Davison. Dube agrees. "I think it's actually good for us, and our future."
Amy Burkholder is a producer with CNN Medical News.