(February 8, 2007)
Jeff Buttle’s first performance in his return to international competition last night was a good one.
The native of Smooth Rock Falls, Ont., who didn’t compete internationally all season because of a stress fracture to his back, began his comeback last night in the short program at the 2007 ISU Four Continents Championships in Colorado Springs. Buttle didn’t disappoint, finishing first after the short program in a strong field.
Buttle opened his program, set to a piano version of Adios Nonino, with a solid triple flip-triple toeloop combination. He also completed a triple Lutz, and his program was highlighted by difficult spins and footwork, all of which were graded a level four by the technical panel. Buttle’s only error came when he stumbled out of his triple Axel.
Buttle’s total score of 77.72 slightly outdid his previous personal best short program score of 77.39.
“My season has been very uneventful. I’ve been spending most of the season just off the ice and recovering,” said Buttle. “The injury healed completely. I was back on the ice, training; basically I’m back to normal.”
The three-time Canadian Champion and 2006 Olympic bronze medallist was pleased with his performance.
“The jumps obviously weren’t as good as they’ve been,” said Buttle. “My body kept rotating after the Axel, so I had a pretty major step out. Otherwise, I think all of the other elements, the spins, the footwork…I really have been pushing, trying to get the levels, and not only the levels, but the quality of the levels. I think it paid off.”
Two other Canadian skaters are also currently standing in the top-10. Emanuel Sandhu, who won bronze at the 2007 BMO Canadian Championships in Halifax, is fifth, while Canadian silver medallist Christopher Mabee is eighth.
Sandhu successfully completed a quadruple toeloop-double toeloop combination, but singled his planned triple Axel. The 26-year-old, who lives and trains in Vancouver, was awarded 64.98 points, and stands within striking distance of the podium.
Mabee, of Tillsonburg, Ont., earned a total of 58.58 for his short program.
Two Americans currently stand second and third. Jeremy Abbott is second with 74.34 points, and American silver medallist Ryan Bradley is third with 68.83 points.
In the compulsory dance, five-time Canadian Champions and Montreal natives Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon finished first, performing a smooth and elegant golden waltz. The 2006 world silver medallists were first to skate and delivered a strong performance, earning them a score of 38.54.
“I think it was a pretty good dance for us,” said Dubreuil. “Skating first is always a little more nerve wracking with the altitude. We’ve skated here (in Colorado Springs) for a week. After nationals, there was no point for us to go back to Lyon because our coaches were at Europeans. So we came to train here.”
Reigning world junior ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who recently captured the silver medal at the 2007 BMO Canadian Championships, currently stand fourth. The duo, from London, Ont., also performed a strong compulsory dance and was awarded with a score of 33.41, only 0.27 points behind the young American team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who are third.
Another American team, Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, the 2006 Olympic silver medallists and 2006 world bronze medallists, are second with a score of 37.72.
Lauren Senft, of West Vancouver, and Leif Gislason, of Winnipeg, also skated a solid performance and stand fifth with 29.70 points.
Canadian pairs stand fourth, fifth and eighth
Canadian pairs also performed well last night in Colorado Springs. Former Canadian Champions Valérie Marcoux and Craig Buntin, ranked fifth in the world, are fourth after an impressive performance. Their teammates, Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay and newly crowned Canadian Champions Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison, are fifth and eighth, respectively.
Marcoux, of Gatineau, Que., and Buntin, of Kelowna, B.C., performed a strong and exciting program, highlighted by side-by-side triple toeloops, a high double twist and a throw triple loop. Their score of 60.43 placed them just over one point behind Americans Rena Inoue and John Baldwin, who currently stand third with 61.73 points.
Langlois, from Grand-Mère, Que., and Hay, of Grande Prairie, Alta., also had a good skate, completing all of their elements with the exception of a fall on an attempted throw triple Lutz. The Canadian bronze medallists were awarded a score of 56.15 for their short program.
Dubé, of Drummondville, Que., and Davison, of Cambridge, Ont., earned a total of 53.39 points.
Two Chinese teams, former world champions and 2002 and 2006 Olympic bronze medallists Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao stand first after delivering an excellent short program and earning 69.29 points, while their teammates and defending world champions Qing Pang and Jian Tong are second with a score of 65.80.
The ISU Four Continents Championships continues today with the original dance, pair free skate and ladies short program.
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