Buttle beats the odds

TERRY JONES

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

GOTEBORG, Sweden -- When Jeffrey Buttle sat down beside Lee Barkell in the Kiss 'n' Cry, he asked his coach the question.

"I asked him if he thought it would be enough," said Buttle.

Enough for a medal?

"He said, 'Yeah. I think it might be good enough for the gold.'"

Nobody saw this coming. Nobody saw Canada winning three medals at these World Figure Skating Championships.

Nobody saw a bronze in pairs, followed by a silver in dance and especially capped with gold from Jeff Buttle.

It was Canada s first men's gold since Elvis Stojko in 1997.

It was the first three-medal Worlds for Canada since 1993.

When the marks came up, I was just in shock," said the new world champion from Smooth Rock Falls, Ont., who was dethroned as Canadian champion in Vancouver in January by 17-year-old Patrick Chan.

Buttle, when he climbed to the top of the podium, could clearly be seen saying the four-letter friend-getter instead of "Wow!" to the world.

"Oh, no," he said when informed. "I never say that."

Meanwhile, defending world champion Brian Joubert from France, was saying the same word with an entirely different meaning.

Joubert felt it was a miscarriage of justice for a guy without a quad to win the world championship.

"I wouldn t have bet on Jeffrey Buttle when I came here," said Joubert. "This will teach me a valuable lesson. For Jeff, you'll have a wonderful year. But I am very disappointed. Jeffrey did the perfect competition, but he didn't try to land a quad jump.

"With the new system it s better to do something simple. They need to give more points to the quad for the future."

When Joubert finished his program, he fell to his knees, kissed the ice and then patted the place he kissed it.

For all the world, it was like he believed he'd just won a second-straight title then and there. The capacity crowd in the Scandinavium was going crazy.

But behind the boards, Canada's Buttle, the last skater left, tried not to notice. He faced the opposite way.

"I wasn't looking at him. In a situation like that, you feed off the crowd. I just told myself, 'You're perfectly trained and ready for this.'"

Buttle ended up with 245.17 points with Joubert way back at 231.22, and Johnny Weir, the only American to make it to the podium in any event, at 221.84.

It was Buttle up there singing the anthem as he struggled between tears flooding his eyes contrasting with the greatest grin he's ever had on his face.

"I wasn't expecting all the emotion up there," he said.

"I definitely was singing. You can consider yourself lucky you weren't close," he said of his inability to carry a tune. My emotions got the better of me toward the end. I was very proud.

"It doesn't feel real yet. I was just very happy how I skated. That's how I've been training at home. When I went on the ice, it felt just like home. Just go out there. I stepped on the ice and it didn't matter that I skated last. I adapted to that. I've done it at home and I was ready. There were no excuses."

At the time of his career when people were coming to the conclusion that nice guys don't finish first, especially if they don't do the quad, Jeffrey Buttle proved otherwise.

"It couldn't happen to a better person," said Skate Canada high-performance director Mike Slipchuk.

"Much has been made of the fact that a lot of guys made a lot of mistakes when he's won his medals. But he won this medal. He was the best."

Buttle won a silver in Moscow two years ago, despite falling twice. And he won a bronze at the Olympics when there was a lot of crashing and burning happening, too. That happened again as those with quads came undone when they missed one. But something was different this time. Buttle had the highest marks in both the short and the free-skate final on the technical side of things.

"To me, this medal means the most," said Buttle.

"It was the four-and-a-half minutes and the 250 points I'll remember more than the Olympic bronze."

In the end, with a gold medal around his neck, Jeff Buttle didn't have to say he was sorry.

He said he was inspired by Kurt Browning and Brian Orser and their ability to do it all from beginning to end.

"When I started skating, I watched Kurt Browning and Brian Orser. And it was about the program. The most memorable moments in skating, you remember the program. You don't remember one element they did. That's what I'm most passionate about when I skate. It's not just about jumps, it's about the spins and the steps. I went out there and left everything on the ice. I had my heart on my sleeve. And I'm proud of it."

So is Canada.


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