(February 17, 2006)
It was a very memorable evening last night for Jeff Buttle at the Palavela in Turin.
After placing sixth in the short program on Tuesday, Buttle, a native of Smooth Rock Falls, Ont., delivered a personal best free skate to vault onto the bronze medal step of the podium at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.
Buttle, who had drawn to skate fourth in the final flight of six skaters on Thursday night, opened his Samson and Delilah program with a solid triple flip-triple toe loop combination. Despite falling on his attempt at a quadruple toe loop, Buttle came back to complete a triple Axel-double toe loop combination, a second triple Axel, a triple Lutz-double toe loop-double loop combination, a triple Salchow and a second triple Lutz. His spins and footwork were excellent and were awarded with a high degree of difficulty.
His score of 154.30 for the free skate bested Buttle’s previous personal best free skate score by over 12 points. His combined total for the event was 227.59, also a new personal best.
But it wasn’t over just yet. There were still two skaters – France’s Brian Joubert, who stood fourth after the short program, and Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi, who was just in front of Buttle in fifth – to skate.
Buttle waited backstage anxiously, watching the TV in the media mix zone, to see if he had won an Olympic medal. When the final results flashed on the screen, a huge smile appeared on Buttle’s face.
“I was queasy and weak in the knees,” said Buttle of when he learned of the result. “It didn’t hit me right away.
“It’s unbelievable. I can’t really feel yet that I got a medal,” said Buttle. “I never would have thought that I’d come back after the short program. The new judging system made this possible.
“I went out there for the free skate and just made the goal of just enjoying myself, and it all worked out in the end,” added Buttle. “I’m elated right now.”
Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko, who had a commanding lead after the short program, skated a strong program that featured a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop-double loop combinations and two impressive triple Axels, one in combination with a double toe loop. He was awarded 167.67 points for the free skate, bringing his total score to a personal best 258.33.
“The Olympic Games four years ago weren’t mine, but these were,” said Plushenko. “It was my dream (to win the Olympic Games). When I was four, I saw a competition and said to my mom “I have to be there,’” he added.
Capturing the silver medal was 2005 world champion Stephane Lambiel, of Switzerland.
Despite turning a planned triple Axel into a double off the top of his program, Lambiel recovered to land an excellent quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop-double loop combination. He also completed four more triple jumps, but stepped out of his second quadruple toe loop attempt.
Lambiel’s free skate score of 152.17 gave him an overall total of 231.21 points, which earned him the silver medal.
“I’m very happy with my medal tonight, but I know I can do better,” said Lambiel. “These two weeks have been very difficult for me. I had an injury; when I got here I was sick. To be on the podium with a medal was happiness that I fought hard and that I did it.”
American Evan Lysacek came back from 10th after the short program to place fourth in the free skate and finish fourth overall with 220.13 points.
Shawn Sawyer, of Edmundston, N.B., reached his goal of placing in the top-15 at his first trip to the Olympic Games. He was 12th in the short program and 12th in the free skate to finish 12th overall with a score of 190.83.
Richmond Hill, Ont.’s Emanuel Sandhu, who skated to an original composition by Gordon Cobb, was seventh in the short program and 14th in the free skate to place 13th overall. His combined total was 190.24.
The Olympic figure skating competition continues today with the ice dance compulsories.