Shooting star

ANGELA MacISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

It's one thing to skate among stars but it's definitely another to feel like one of the in-crowd.

After winning a silver medal at the world championships, Jeff Buttle is in like flint.

"I do feel like I belong now," said the 22-year-old from Smooth Rock Falls, Ont.

"I've known a lot of these people for a while and I've trained with them before but now I feel like I'm part of the family."

The family is the host of internationally renowned figure skaters, such as Kurt Browning, Steven Cousins, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, Alexei Yagudin and Shae-Lynn Bourne, comprising the cast of HSBC Stars on Ice, which hits the Saddledome tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Among them are Olympic and world champions and medallists -- just like Buttle, who earned his silver in Moscow last month.

He was fourth heading into the long program during which he fell twice. But favourite Evgeni Plushenko had pulled out with a groin injury and Buttle's program was strong enough for second.

"It was such a good end to the season," the Canadian men's champ said. "I couldn't believe it. I went with my top-six goal in mind and I was consistent throughout.

"I wasn't perfect by any means but I did what I had to do to come second. I had what it took for that day. I handled the pressure second best of everyone."

But he's certainly not resting on his laurels. After all, the Turin Olympics are now just 10 months away.

So, bet on the Stars on Ice tour being a learning experience.

"Everyone on the tour is great," Buttle said. "They're helping me prepare for what I need to handle mentally at the Olympics and on the ice. They're giving me help with specific things like jumps.

"It's an excellent opportunity to be training with these guys."

Bourne, the former ice dance partner of Victor Kraatz, is one of the willing teachers.

And, of course, handing out advice is becoming old hat, now that she and her fiance Nikolai Morosov are coaching.

"It's a whole new world, this coaching," said Bourne, who retired in 2003 as world champion.

"It's much easier to just skate because you know what to do. There are so many ways of coaching. But I'm working with Nikolai, learning and watching, learning and watching.

"But it's so exciting to still be involved with skating."

And, yes, she skates alone now. This is her second season performing alone on tour and, after 10 Canadian titles together, she only missed Kraatz once -- the first time.

"It was strange," Bourne said. "I guess I was more concerned with how the audience would react. I felt good about what I was doing ... it was different. But at the same time, I was wondering if people would be uncomfortable or hope to see Victor there. I just love having the opportunity to perform."

Hydroblading is part of the program. How could it not be? It was the trademark move of Bourne and Kraatz.

But don't expect any big jumps.

"Oh no, you won't see me doing double or triple Axels out there," she said, giggling. "I evolved what we were good at and a lot of it is with hydroblading, a lot of dancing and connecting steps.

"I'm a dancer. It's about performing to the music and putting on a show for the audience."


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