Buttle determined to medal

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 6:59 AM ET

He won't arrive in Italy with the pedigree of an Elvis Stojko, Kurt Browning or Brian Orser.

No world titles on his resume, nor an Olympic medal. At least not yet.

But inside Jeffrey Buttle beats the heart of a 23-year-old athlete determined to fulfil his promise as Canada's best hope for a figure skating medal at the Turin Olympics.

While Buttle might seem like somewhat of an overnight sensation -- he didn't qualify for the world championships in 2004, then won the men's silver medal a year later -- the Olympic dream was hatched more than half a lifetime ago, when Buttle first was discovering his love for the ice during his formative years in northern Ontario.

Remembers '94 Games

"I remember watching (the 1994 Lillehammer Games) and telling my mom and dad I'd be going to the Olympics someday," said Buttle, who was 11 at the time.

"They just laughed it off. I was skating in the middle of nowhere in northern Ontario at the time. I wasn't really even competitive yet."

Buttle knows how hard he has worked since then, mostly at the Mariposa School of Skating in Barrie under coach Lee Barkell.

And yet, he has exploded onto the scene in just the past year or so. Buttle had won the odd Grand Prix event before last season, before an astonishing free skate at the John Labatt Centre in London made him Canadian champion for the first time. He followed that up with his world silver in Moscow.

At the Canadian championships in Ottawa last week, it was clear that he has settled into a comfort zone.

Buttle won't be the favourite in Turin. That distinction will go to three-time world champ Evgeni Plushenko of Russia, but Buttle certainly belongs in the medal mix.

"He's got strong programs," television analyst Tracy Wilson said. "He's got a lot of the basics and he could come through. The material and artistry are there. He's a player (for an Olympic medal), for sure."

EXQUISITE STYLE

He also has an exquisite style that has won favour with the judges.

"I think he's Peter Pan," said David Wilson, his longtime choreographer. "It's like he's barely touching the ice ... Jeff has this light, effortless kind of spring and agility that is just incredible."

What has doesn't have yet is a quadruple jump he can count on consistently.

It's the jump he needs to give Plushenko and reigning world champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland a run for the gold, and he knows it.

But Barkell feels confident about it, saying Buttle landed it regularly during practices at the Canadians last week.

It definitely is in his free program for Turin.

MEDAL CHANCES

Has mastered new scoring system, but lack of a quad jump hurts.

Prediction:

Silver


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