Silver lining

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:00 PM ET

OTTAWA -- There's nothing worse than a war of words between a couple of figure skaters.

Or an equipment controversy.

Yesterday we had both in the men's short program at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships.

Last year, if you remember, Jeff Buttle was insulted by Emanuel Sandhu.

"His insult was that I was playing the safe route by not trying a quad,'' said Buttle, the smooth skater from Smooth Rock Falls, Ont., after beating him in the short program yesterday.

Buttle had the last laugh, going on from playing it safe at last year's Canadians in London, Ont. to winning a silver medal in last year's Worlds, a silver medal winner at this season's Grand Prix and making himself Canada's best bet for Olympic gold in figure skating at the Turin 2006.

Sandhu had two quads, the figure skating equivalent of the atomic bomb. He ended up doing one rotation on each, but that's another story.

The story here yesterday was that Sandhu decided to take the aforementioned "safe route'' and not make a major mess of his short program at the event which doubles as Olympic Trials here.

Not trying the quad and falling on the Lutz, Sandhu ended up with 107.93 points to Buttle's 115.52 for his less than perfect program, but one on which he stayed on his skates.

"If he's landing it all the time, I say 'Why not?' '' Buttle said of the brilliant Vancouver skater who has had so many mind-boggling meltdowns in his constipated career.

ANOTHER INSULT

Sandhu said he chose to play it safe, to take out his quad, because - and this would be another insult if you're scoring - "nobody here even tried them and I'm doing two.''

Sandhu said it was just the short program.

"I just wanted to get that part of the way. It was a consensus decision on my part and Joanne's part,'' he said of coach Joanne McLeod.

There are two ways to look at all this. It's Canadians. He's second. Top three go to the Olympics. He did the smart thing. Or ...

The guy hasn't got it done in the short program since the Grand Prix final in December 2003 in Colorado Springs, Col.

In the media scrum, he was asked about "the short program eluding you again.''

Sandhu looked stunned by the question.

"I don't know if it eluded me,'' he said. "I had a clean short program yesterday in practice.''

Practices used to count for something to figure skating judges. Not anymore. It's now supposed to be the equivalent of a hockey player saying he had a good morning skate.

Whatever, Sandhu figured the story this day ought not to be his usual struggle with the short program but his unusual battle with a skate lace.

He suggested the emergency skate lace repair situation might have affected his program.

"A skate never feels the same,'' he said.

A skate lace hasn't been a story in figure skating since Tonya Harding's broke early in her long program at the Lillehammer Olympics which, of course, was preceded by the whacking of Nancy Kerrigan's knee at the US championships. At least we were spared the picture of Sandhu skating over to the judges bawling.

'MY LACE SNAPPED'

"My lace snapped right before I went on the ice,'' he said of the moments before he went out for warmup. "I didn't have time to put in a new lace. I had to tie a knot.''

Actually, coach McLeod tackled the knotty problem first. "We only had two minutes. I tried to tie it. I used an old standard knot. That just didn't do it. I didn't learn my knots in Brownies.''

Nobody figured Sandhu for a Boy Scout, but he managed to get it tied. "I said 'No, Jo, let me tie it.' ''

Sandhu saw himself as the hero of the day. You just don't get these kind of stories in other sports.


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