Buttle squeezes Sandhu out for top spot

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 2:47 PM ET

OTTAWA -- A contender. A pretender. And maybe Mabee.

It was so close to decide the men's Canadian Figure Skating Champion that Emanuel Sandhu almost squeezed the stuffing out of a giant teddy bear waiting for the marks.

But when it was over Jeffrey Buttle had 266.90 points and Sandhu had 247.08.

So they go to the Turin Olympics like they came here - with Buttle a contender for a medal and Sandhu his usual question mark.

"I thought that Jeff's jumps were weak," Sandhu said. "I feel like I've lost my championship again.

"I'm not that happy right now."

A third Canadian spot will likely be decided today.

Shawn Sawyer of Edmunston, N.B., finished third here last night with Christopher Mabee of Tillsonburg, Ont., fourth. Mabee has had a much stronger year internationally and the point difference was 232.90 to 225.22.

While Buttle fell on a rare attempt at a quad and fought for a lot of landings, he did put down seven triples. Sandhu stumbled out of his quad and had six triples to go with it.

Buttle handled a questioner, wondering if he considered it a championship skate.

"I won, so it was a championship skate. It wasn't perfect. I knew it would be a little bit close. I asked my coach, and he seemed pretty confident I'd won. I trust him.

''I feel good going into the Olympics winning, but not doing my best here.''

Buttle goes to Turin as a two-time Canadian champion, a silver medallist at last year's worlds and a silver medallist at this season's ISU Grand Prix.

But, nothing has really changed.

Buttle left Sandhu as second banana in Canadian figure skating last year, and he goes to the Olympics with the same billing.

Sandhu withdrew from the Salt Lake 2002 Olympics, claiming injury, and did so too late to bring in a replacement. He failed to qualify at his first world championships and subsequently has finished 18th, ninth, eighth, eight and seventh.

Coach Joanne McLeod said it was good, but not great.

"The Cup of China has been the best long program this year and Skate Canada was right up there. This one would be under those two.''


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