Mabee aiming for top 10

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

Christopher Mabee has come of age and is already getting ready for a bigger stage.

The Tillsonburg figure skater finished second to his buddy Jeff Buttle in a breakthrough performance at the Canadian championships last month at Halifax -- a strong week that booked him a ticket to next month's world championships in Tokyo, Japan.

"I'm excited because I felt I was ready for a while and it was a goal of mine for a long time to finally get to worlds," Mabee said yesterday from Barrie, where he trains at the Mariposa School of Skating. "I'm hoping for a top 10 finish the first time out."

First, the 21-year-old will join Buttle, who won the first of his three straight Canadian titles in the Forest City three years ago, for the London Skating Club's Centennial Gala on Sunday night at the John Labatt Centre.

London's Tessa Virtue and Ilderton's Scott Moir, who finished second in ice dance at last month's nationals, will also appear at the show celebrating 100 years of local skating, jumps and spins.

"It's going to be great to get to see everyone after nationals and on the way to getting ready for Tokyo because it usually doesn't work out that way in the middle of a season," Mabee said. "The Western Ontario section has always been one of the strongest in the country. We have a lot of good skaters coming through right now, especially at the junior levels and it's going to be exciting to see what this group can do over the next five to 10 years."

Few skaters can match Mabee when it comes to the magical quality of enchanting a crowd and getting the on-lookers emotionally involved in his on-ice antics. His problem the past few years has been inconsistency from skate to skate, which has cost him previous podium finishes at nationals, the world junior championships, the fall Grand Prix circuit and even a spot at the Olympic Games in Turin, Italy last year (he served as an injury replacement).

"I've really been working with my sports psychologist and I think it's really helped get to the point where I can skate well and feel good about it and put together a lot of strong performances," he said. "I've always had the jumps -- I've had them for a long time -- but what's been missing has been the program."

It's the final hurdle in his ascent to the title as the top male figure skater in Canada. He knows he has to get to -- and surpass -- Buttle's level to climb that mountain.

"I think it's early for that right now," he said. "Jeff's got the best program in the world right now and I'm not just saying that because he's my friend. I'm saying that because I see what's out there and what he's doing. It helps me because I know what it takes. Jeff has travelled (to train in California during off-seasons) but I think, at this stage, I'm going to stay put right here and focus on what I'm doing. Jeff's going to do what's right for Jeff and I have to do what I think is right for me."

After topping Emanuel Sandhu last month and finishing third in the free skate at a talent-laden Four Continents championship in Colorado last week, Mabee has the confidence to rise among the current greats of his sport. Until he can beat Buttle, he knows he won't get the recognition and respect the Olympic bronze medal has commanded -- even as he battles back from injury.

"I think it's great that Canada has two skaters in the mix," Mabee said.

LONDON SKATING CLUB CENTENNIAL GALA ICE SHOW

When: Sunday, 7 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre

Tickets: $34 for general admission; limited on-ice seating $70

Featured skaters: Christopher Mabee, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Jeff Buttle, Joannie Rochette, Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison


Videos

Photos