Cross-Canada star on ice

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:43 PM ET

Before Jeffrey Buttle went to the world figure skating championships last month, he was scheduled to appear in two shows on the Stars On Ice cross-Canada tour. Since the 22-year-old returned from Russia, he's been added to all 12 of the stops, including next Sunday at the John Labatt Centre.

"We're going from Halifax to Victoria," Buttle said recently from his training home at the Mariposa School of Skating in Barrie. "Before Russia, I was hoping one of my two shows would be in London at the JLC (where he won his first Canadian senior title in January). But now, I'm in them all."

Such is the power of a men's silver medal at worlds, which Buttle captured in surprising fashion on March 17 in Moscow. All of a sudden, he's a main attraction on the tour circuit.

At worlds, the 22-year-old from Smooth Rock Falls was fourth heading into the free skate and fell twice in his long program. But favourite Evgeni Plushenko pulled out with a groin injury and Buttle's performance was deemed strong enough for second spot on the global podium behind Switzerland's Stephane Lambiel.

"The one thing I learned from years of competition is that when you get a silver medal on a day like that, you just take it and run and don't question it," he said. "There'll be competitions where you skate great and still don't win. I was second-best on that day and I'll take it."

So will Skate Canada. It was the first medal at worlds for a Canadian man since Elvis Stojko's silver in 2000. Buttle's finish, combined with Emanuel Sandhu's seventh-place result, gives Canada three berths for next year's winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy.

"It was a crazy time in Russia after worlds," he said. "One of my coaches is Russian and I spent some extra time there afterward just doing the tour thing (he went to see Lenin's tomb) and doing all the things that Muscovites normally do there. But I basically had to carry my medal around with me in my pocket because so many people wanted to take my picture with it."

Despite the medal and extra attention, Buttle still calls his national-winning skate in London his best of the season. London was comfortable for the young star, who learned to skate in the Forest City while his family lived here before moving back to Northern Ontario.

"What I think I'll always take from London is the great feeling I had from that free skate," he said. "I performed when the pressure was on and I'll always have that with me whenever and wherever I go to compete. That's what makes it so special."

When the Stars On Ice tour ends, Buttle plans to take a short break before getting back to work and improving for next season. He plans to make another training visit to Lake Arrowhead in California, where he skated alongside longtime U.S. champ Michelle Kwan.

The biggest knock against Buttle right now is that he's competing without a key weapon in a men's skater's arsenal -- the quad jump.

"That's going to be big this offseason," he said. "I'm going to work on my rotations. It's not like I've never landed a quad before -- that's a misconception. I just want to get it to the point where it's completely consistent.

"I want to get in the gym and add some weight. I think that's very important to get me where I want to go and to do the things I have planned."

London skate fans won't see the quad on April 24, but they will see two new Buttle routines. He'll skate with sunglasses to former pop star Corey Hart's old hit Sunglasses (At Night) in his upbeat performance and then slow it down to the more traditional Ave Maria.

Though big things are in store for Buttle, it's clear he's still a Northern Ontario boy at heart. Less than three weeks after skating in Russia, Buttle performed at the Shamrock Figure Skating Club's festival in Desbarats.

The tiny town, which is a half-hour's drive from Sault Ste. Marie, has a population of 400. Those folks will be talking about the visit of the second-best skater in the world for some time.


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