Jeff Buttle wins world figure skating title
Canada's Jeff Buttle captured his first world title in style, blowing away the rest of the men's field Saturday at the world figure skating championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The 25-year-old born in Smooth Rock Falls, Ont., and raised in Sudbury, Ont., put on a personal-best performance in the final to beat out defending world champion Brian Joubert of France by a whopping 14 points. American Johnny Weir was third.
"It's always been my dream to be world champion," said Buttle, a world silver medallist in 2005 and an Olympic bronze medallist in 2006. "I can't believe it's really happened."
Buttle came into the free skate with the lead after placing first in Friday's short program. The three-time Canadian champion posted 163.07 points in the final to give him an overall total of 245.17, also a personal best.
Toronto's Patrick Chan, who dethroned Buttle for the Canadian title in January, dropped two positions to ninth, finishing his first world championship with 203.55 points.
The combined Buttle-Chan results qualified Canada to have a third entry in the discipline next year in Los Angeles.
The last time the Canadian flag was raised during the medal ceremonies was in 2003 in Washington when Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz won ice dancing gold. Buttle won Canada's first men's singles gold medal since Elvis Stojko triumphed in 1997.
"It's certainly been a long journey," Lee Barkell, Buttle's coach in Barrie, Ont., said of the Mariposa School of Skating's new world champion. "I've taught Jeff since he was eight years old so to see him stand on top of the podium was amazing, amazing."
Buttle was slowed by a back injury last season, and just last month he finished second to Japan's Daisuke Takahashi — Saturday's fourth-place finisher — at the Four Continents championship.
But Buttle skated brilliantly Saturday. Though he didn't do a quadruple jump, he did three clean combinations for a total of eight triple jumps. He had great speed, whimsical footwork and performed with an energy and lightness that reflected the confidence he's carried during these championships.
Buttle was grinning when he came off the ice, telling his coach, "just like at home." When the marks went up and showed he was the winner, Buttle's eyes widened and his mouth dropped.
"It's been such a great week for me," Buttle said. "It doesn't even feel real yet. It hasn't sunk in."
Joubert's finish was impressive, considering he was sixth after the short program. The Frenchman has had a tough season, missing most of the Grand Prix series because of a strength-sapping virus. But he was mesmerizing Saturday. He opened with a quad and did seven triples, and showed he will be a force to be reckoned with next year.
Joubert was angry when he saw Buttle's marks pop up.
"He didn't try a quad jump and I was disappointed about it because the new judging system is like that — it's better to do simple and clean than to try something difficult," Joubert said during the skaters' news conference. "We saw Stephane [Swiss skater Stephane Lambiel] try two quads, Daisuke also.
"That's why I was disappointed. We need to give more points for the quad jump in the future."
Buttle was a touch stung by the comments. He'd landed eight triple jumps and had technical marks far superior to the others. He wasn't going to apologize for having no quad — not with a gold medal hanging from a ribbon around his neck.
"I work very hard on everything involved in figure skating and not just the jumps," he said. "I was fortunate enough to skate a clean program.
"I trained very hard to do that. It wasn't just about jumps. We work whole sessions on spins and stroking and all the in-betweens because that is figure skating. Figure skating is everything — everything that happens in four minutes 40 seconds. I definitely feel that I earned the title and I'm happy about that."
With files from the Canadian Press