Men trip all over themselves

ROB BRODIE, Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

LONDON, ONT. -- The great men's showdown wasn't much of a show. And after a night in which all the top contenders went rumblin', stumblin', bumblin' through their short programs at the Canadian figure skating championships, one question cried out to be asked.

Who wants to win this thing?

Let's just say the guy who finished the night on top of the heap -- Jeffrey Buttle of Smooth Rock Falls -- didn't sound like a winner when the carnage mercifully stopped.

"Everyone made mistakes," said Buttle, 22. "I was maybe the better of the not so great. It's a horrible thing to have to say something like that."

But out of the mediocrity at the John Labatt Centre emerged a pretty intriguing storyline for tonight's free skate final. Buttle won the short program with 70.93 points, despite landing his triple lutz on all fours and doubling a planned triple Axel.

He knows he'll have to be better tonight.

"I'm not going to really embellish myself with a victory," he said. "I didn't think I was very victorious.

"I want to make sure I redeem myself (tonight)."

Buttle's cumulative total is 105.28 points -- 5.96 better than two-time defending champ Emanuel Sandhu of Richmond Hill. Sandhu was actually judged to have the fourth-best short program (63.53 points), behind Shawn Sawyer of Edmundston, N.B., (66.61) and Marc-Andre Craig of Sherbrooke, Que. (64.26).

He seem perplexed by that result, but Sandhu said he was fretting more about a triple Axel that wound up being a single.

"I was probably still thinking it was stupid to pop the Axel," he said.

There was also a stumble out of his quadruple toe loop on the front end of his combination -- the only quad attempted last night. He'll likely be the only one to try one in the free, even though it's apparent he could probably win without one.

SANDHU NEEDS QUAD

"I'm going for a world medal here," said Sandhu. "People trying for a world medal don't do triple flip-triple toe combinations ... I've been doing (quads) since '99. I'm not going to go back like that."

Added coach Joanne McLeod: "That's never going to change. The only way he is going to stand on the world podium is to hit the quad."

Other than "mistake," the word of the night was "surprise." That would describe the feelings of Sawyer, who had a pair of two-footed jump landings mar an otherwise exquisite skate.

With a 95.23 total, he heads a hot battle for the bronze ahead of Edmonton's Ben Ferreira (93.49) and Craig (91.22).

"I was very surprised," said Sawyer, who trained at the Minto Skating Club before moving to Drummondville, Que., this season. "It wasn't perfect, I can do better. But it was good enough (last) night and good enough for me."

ANDREEV SICKLY EIGHTH

The guy with the best excuse for being off form -- Ottawa's Fedor Andreev, who was suffering from a stomach flu -- chose not to use it.

"I felt like absolute crap, I felt awful," said Andreev, who flubbed his triple flip-triple toe combo and stands eighth. "Maybe I lost focus, but I'm experienced enough to know that mistakes like that shouldn't happen."

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


Videos

Photos