Kicking some Buttle

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:55 AM ET

They jousted and jabbed, just the way two great skating foes should when everything is on the table.

Perhaps, down the road, we'll look back at this as the night Jeffrey Buttle and Emanuel Sandhu finally hatched an honest-to-goodness Canadian men's figure skating rivalry.

The two guys who'll lead the red maple leaf's charge at the Turin Olympics put on quite the show for 7,249 souls at the old Civic Centre last night.

In the end, it was Buttle carting home his second straight Canadian title. And Sandhu left scratching his head over the final scoring margin, a whopping 19.82 points.

"I was surprised by the point difference," said Sandhu, 25, of Richmond Hill, who was bidding for his fourth crown. "It's a big difference, a little too big for my pleasure.

"Of course, I'm disappointed, but I'll get over that ... but for me to be so far behind is hard for me to wrap my mind around."

Buttle, who closed the show, didn't crank out the masterful performance he turned in a year ago at the 2005 London nationals. He went after the quad but tumbled to the ice, and later doubled a planned triple loop.

"I had no idea what Emanuel had done," said Buttle.

But there were seven triples in all, include a pair of triple Axels.

Advantage, Buttle, in that category -- Sandhu nailed six triples, and only one TA. When Sandhu two-footed the landing of his quad and turned it into a series, it made that one a wash.

The final numbers: Buttle racked up 151.38 points on the night, 266.90 overall; Sandhu,139.15 for the free, 247.08 in total.

Sandhu's coach, Joanne McLeod, didn't dispute the final result.

She knew her protege had a mountain to climb after falling nearly eight points behind after the short program.

"The key was in the short," she said. "Jeff (built up) a little bit of a margin. (Last night) could have maybe gone either way, but I said to Emanuel that this won't be your night because of that margin."

So make it two crowns for Buttle, though he admits there's some cleaning up to do on his Samson and Delilah free program before Turin.

"I won, so it was a championship skate," Buttle, 23, of Smooth Rock Falls, said afterward. "It wasn't perfect, but last year at Canadians I had one of my best skates and then I had a lackluster performance in the long at worlds. I feel better knowing there's still room for improvement."

He didn't flinch when asked if he's the guy to win Canada's first-ever men's gold at the Olympics.

"I want to be the man," he said. "All I can do is train as hard as I can, be confident in my training and go there without any doubts."

Nobody will be more excited to head to Turin than Shawn Sawyer, who cemented Canada's third Olympic team berth with a command effort on his 21st birthday. He checked off eight triple jumps, including a couple of Axels, though a pair of his jumps were landed on two feet.

No matter. He's got what he came for: His first Olympics.

"I still can't believe it ... I'm going to Torino," said Sawyer, an Edmundston, N.B., native. "I won't believe it until I get my tickets."

About the birthday?

"Twenty-one has been my lucky number and now it's even luckier."

Sawyer added to the elation at his training base in Drummondville, Que.

Earlier in the day, Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison grabbed one of Canada's two pairs berths for Turin.

"I was so thrilled for them," he said.

It was also a night when Edmonton's Ben Ferreira said farewell to the Canadian championships. And young Patrick Chan, though he succumbed to nerves and struggled with his free program, still showed the flair of a budding Olympian.

Mostly, it was an evening, finally, when Buttle and Sandhu both brought their best to the house. And left everyone wanting for their next showdown.

"I think we can both feel good about what we did," said Buttle. "Last year (in London), we both did a good long and that's it. This year, we each had three solid skates. I know I'm happy with what I did."

Champions usually are.

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


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