Work those quads

ANGELA MacISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

Jeff Buttle knows full well he'll be needing a quadruple jump in his program by the time the 2006 Winter Olympics arrive in Turin, Italy.

The national men's champion already can land one -- just not consistently enough.

"The new points system rewards a clean program," he said from his training site in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. "I'm not ready to take that risk yet but I'm working hard to make it consistent."

The quad is the measuring stick by which male figure skaters are judged at the international level, a trend started by Canadian legend Kurt Browning.

And Russia's Evgeni Plushenko, to whom Buttle finished second at the ISU Grand Prix final last fall, has been landing it for several years.

"At nationals, I was able to get away without it," said Buttle, whose eight clean triples and 262.23 points eclipsed three-time champ Emanuel Sandhu. "But to podium at the international level, it's a necessity."

Both Buttle, 22 and based out of Barrie, Ont., and women's champ Joannie Rochette, 19, are keeping their eyes focused on the world championships March 14-20 in Moscow, rather than the Olympics.

But they sure know it's coming.

"I can't keep it out of the back of my mind," Buttle said. "It's something I've always dreamed of doing but everything I do is directed at worlds right now."

Rochette, of Ile Dupas, Que., knows she's caught up in a whirlwind with one year left to Turin.

"It's hard to believe it's coming so fast," she said. "I'm excited and I know that it is possible for me to go there and have a good result. It's inspiring me in my training every day."

And both skaters would love to bring back Canada's first singles medal since Elvis

Stojko's silver in men's at the 1998 Nagano games. The last women's medal was Elizabeth Manley's silver at the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

Canada has won only one gold -- Barbara Ann Scott's in women's competition at the 1948 Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

At last year's worlds, where Rochette was eighth, Canada broke a 22-year run of podium finishes.

Skate Canada CEO Pam Coburn told media after the recent nationals she expects that to change.

"We are very much on target for the goals we set for 2006," she said. "This has been just a great week. We've seen some amazing skating."

Rochette believes it, too.

She said the top-five -- even the top-10 -- women's skaters in Canada can be competitive on the international stage.

"The ladies are stronger technically," said Rochette, who landed seven triples in her title-winning long program. "I remember my first year as a senior. I came in third place with no triple Lutz. Now in Canada, that isn't possible. You need your five triples to be in the top five. It's a big improvement and it's a lot more competitive now."


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