Men skaters worlds apart

ANGELA MACISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

Maybe it's not fair to talk about the weakened field at the world figure skating championships.

Maybe the men's field is strong enough, even without the presence of Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko of Russia.

At least Jeff Buttle thinks so.

"It's pretty obvious at the Olympics that Evgeni was in a field of his own," said the 23-year-old, who earned bronze in Turin, Italy, last month.

"It was the rest of us fighting for the other two medals.

"To be honest, I think it will make the world championships that much more exciting. Everyone is so equal in certain ways, that will make for an exciting event."

The field for the Calgary event, for which practices start Friday morning at the Saddledome and Corral, features Buttle, plus defending champion and Olympic silver medallist Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland.

Add Americans Evan Lysacek, Johnny Weir and Matthew Savoie, Brian Joubert of France, Takahashi Daisuke of Japan and most of the Olympic competitors and the men's field won't be much different from the field in Turin.

Except for Plushenko, who was heads and tails above the competition.

"It could be that he's (already been) world champion and he doesn't feel like he needs to be in Calgary," said Buttle yesterday during a conference call.

"Every one of us who competed at Olympics is pretty worn out right now. It's a competitive sport and it's our job to show up at these events and give it our all.

"I don't want to say he's a bad competitor because he's certainly the best in the world. But that's his choice. He felt he didn't need to do this."

Buttle, who's been suffering from a cold and fatigue since returning from Italy, is feeling the wear and tear from the long season. But he's going to use as motivation the opportunity to compete in front of a Canadian crowd.

"This is going to be one of the toughest world championships, in terms of finding the energy, but it's also going to be one of the most memorable because it's in Canada," he said.

"The greatest help in energy will be the audience. It will be in the performance and feeling the energy from the audience that will push me."

A Canadian hasn't won the men's title on home soil since Kurt Browning earned gold in 1990 at Halifax.

But Buttle isn't concentrating on that.

Simply, he wants to do the best he can, in a field where he has a very good chance at winning.

Unless Lambiel is in top form, that is.

"My triple Axels are stronger than his but his quad is much stronger than mine" said Buttle. "I don't want to say that I have to have the quad but I know that if I were to do the quad, it would made that difference. Otherwise, I have to be really solid because he's going to be putting at least one solid quad in the long program and the short."

Buttle fell during his quad attempt at the Olympics but he's still feeling confident he can land it at the Saddledome.

"I have to go in with the right mindset, basically, and just hope that I hit it when I need it," he said. "Once I get to Calgary and start feeling better, the likelihood of hitting it will improve."


Videos

Photos