Top skaters come up a little short

RYAN PYETTE, Free Press Sports Reporter

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

When is somebody going to step up and win this thing? The only statement that men's contenders Emanuel Sandhu and Jeffrey Buttle made with their short programs last night at London's John Labatt Centre is that it's a good thing the Canadian figure skating championship isn't a short competition.

Judging from the their first two skates on JLC ice, the national men's title has become akin to the lonely stuffed animal stuck in the lost-and-found box that nobody wants to claim.

When the falling and the frustration settled, Buttle, the former Forest City Skating Club member, was on top heading into tonight's free skate with 105.28 points. Sandhu dropped to second at 99.32.

Buttle, who doesn't own a quad jump, earned 70.93 points for his not-so-great short while quad-confident Sandhu, who wasn't his normally spiffy self in front of the national TV audience, earned shocking fourth-place marks for his performance.

"I guess I was the better of the not-so-great," the 22-year-old Buttle said. "It definitely wasn't my best short program of the year. I was lucky my component marks saved me.

"I wasn't happy at all with the performance. . . . All I can do is take that anger and use it in the long program."

Two-time defending champion Sandhu, who started with a shaky quad-toe, triple-toe combo and doubled a planned triple Axel, will have to come from behind to win his fourth title in eight years.

"It wasn't my best short program, but it's not over," the 24-year-old Sandhu said. "I'll get back on the horse. I'm not going to dwell on this."

That's been a familiar refrain for Sandhu this week in London. He has yet to display the form he hopes will be worthy of a medal performance at the worlds in Moscow in March.

But right now, the top two in Canadian men's skating will come to the rink today knowing the biggest roar from the JLC crowd last night was reserved for former champ Brian Orser, who was in the building and displayed on the scoreboard's big screen.

Tillsonburg's Christopher Mabee, who was fourth after an outstanding qualifying performance, failed to take advantage of a prime opportunity to move into medal position. He's sixth heading into the short program and needs a strong skate tonight just to crack the top five and make the national team.

Like Sandhu and Buttle, he thought his night's work was lacking. But at least he didn't slide into the end boards like Nicholas Young, who finished his program, then lingered in the medical room for observation.

"I was upset at myself," the 19-year-old Mabee said. "I tried to feed off the crowd, but it was an average short for me. It was tough, but I think everyone will step up and skate well in the long program."

Earlier in the day, the national junior men's title was won by 14-year-old Toronto native Patrick Chan, who is coached by 88-year-old Osborne Colson at the Granite Club.

Colson won the junior men's title back in 1933 and the national men's senior title in 1936 and '37.


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