London feels like home for Buttle

RYAN PYETTE, Free Press Sports Reporter

, Last Updated: 11:16 AM ET

Jeffrey Buttle is going to feel right at home when he's skating at the upcoming Canadian figure skating championships in London. The 22-year-old men's singles star, who figures to be the biggest threat to stop Emanuel Sandhu from winning three straight national titles, spent the first few years of his skating career in London as a member of the Forest City Skating Club.

"My father worked at Ontario Hydro. We migrated around a lot, but we lived in London until I was about seven and I got my start in skating at Forest City," Buttle said this week during a training break at the Mariposa skating school in Barrie.

"I took CanSkate there. Carol Robinson was my coach and I actually started competing for the club when I was six years old."

The Buttles moved to Timmins, and then Smooth Rock Falls, near Kapuskasking.

Buttle still competes under the banner of the Sudbury club although he trains under Lee Barkell at Mariposa.

Barkell is also the coach of national team member Christopher Mabee of Tillsonburg, whom Buttle calls a good friend.

"We're both looking forward to skating at the John Labatt Centre and having a bit of a home-ice advantage," Buttle said.

"There's going to be a lot of family and friends in the arena. I enjoy getting in front of a crowd like that and I'm excited about performing there."

Buttle is even more excited than usual because he feels he finally has a good chance of toppling Sandhu. Buttle has never finished ahead of his rival in six previous national meets and finished third at last year's Canadians in Edmonton while still feeling the effects of food poisoning from eating tainted chicken on an airplane. Still, he just missed a spot on the worlds team behind Sandhu and Ben Ferreira.

"I don't go in thinking of a particular result but definitely the goal is to finish one or two and get to worlds in March (in Moscow)," Buttle said. "That's what it's all about, I want to be there this year."

Buttle has also never entered a Canadian competition with so much momentum. He beat Sandhu at the recent Grand Prix final in Beijing, China, finishing in second place and pushing world champion Evgeny Plushenko.

"Just to be on the same ice as Plushenko and competing against him gives you confidence," Buttle said. "I really do feel good about how things have been going. I usually get nervous the week leading up to nationals but I don't feel any of that right now. I usually have all these symptoms but they're not there this time."

The biggest strike against Buttle is he has yet to perfect a quad jump, which gives Sandhu the advantage in his program's degree of difficulty. He admits the final scores this week will likely be close, but he still thinks the best clean skate here will win -- no matter the number of revolutions.

"It'd be foolish at this point to try to stick in a quad just for the sake of it and change what I've been doing and what's been working," he said. "The quad will be for the summer time, I'll really work on it then."

Even without the quad, Buttle, like Mabee, is an electric showman on the ice and naturally draws fans to his style of skating. While Canadian skate observers have seen countless recent national stars flop on the international stage, Buttle appears to be different. He feels that the higher the stakes and pressure, the better he performs.

"Definitely, for me, it's a big thing to represent Canada, it's a thrill and when I go to another country or skate against the best in the world, I want to get results," he said. "This is a big year, Olympics are a year away and I want to get as much experience as I can."

From the little lad learning to skate in London to dreams of a trip to Italy for the Winter Games, it's already been quite a journey for Jeffrey Buttle.


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