Saturday, March 29, 2008

Canada wins Gold!

One week ago today, Jeff Buttle won a gold medal in the men's competition at the World Figure Skating Championships.

This is where I explain that I have a deep fondness for figure skating. I know some people don't think it's a serious sport but forget those people. I'm always blown away by the athleticism, flexibility and bravery of figure skaters. I mean, you don't find the average Joe Schmoe spinning and jumping on sharp steel blades on ice.

Buttle's performances were a really nice Easter surprise. It was only two years ago that he suffered from a back injury, a fracture in his spine. For the World's he was considered more of a dark horse than a contender.

But his Short Program was perfect, putting him in first place. My main concern was for his Free Skate as this is where most medals are won and lost. Brian Joubert, the former world champion was a favourite and what I call a 'power jumper'. The man can do quads like nobody's business. And being a worry wart I was in front of the tv, dry washing my hands. Of course, Joubert and Buttle skated at the very end of the night which did wonders for my nerves.

Joubert fell once and downgraded two quadruple jumps to triples. This is when I started to grin maniacally. He'd left the door open for Jeff. When he stepped on the ice, the last skater of the night, I could barely blink. Before every jump I held my breath but he skated clean. It was a perfect performance and Jeff knew it. But he wasn't sure it would be enough for first. In the Kiss and Cry (this is where the skaters receive their marks), the look on his face as his marks were announced was priceless. He'd won the gold! He's the first Canadian to win the men's title since Elvis Stojko in 1997.

This Championship was one of the best I've seen in terms of talent, especially for the men's competition. But this year wasn't without drama. Former World Champion Brian Joubert became a sore loser when he complained that Buttle didn't have any quads in his program. "We need to give more points for the quads."

My problem with his complaint is Jeff was way ahead of him after the Short Program. Yes, Joubert had quads in his Free Skate but he downgraded two to triples and also fell. By the end of the night he had 231.72 to Jeff's 245.17. It wasn't even close. Jeff was very diplomatic about the whole thing. He said figure skating was about more than the jumps. "He's entitled to his opinion. But I guess, today, the judges agreed with me." Joubert, you need to eat some humble pie and learn to share. You can't win all the time.

Jeff had a clean skate and as always, looked amazing out on the ice. I've always thought his artistry was the best in the world. There's a texture to his programs and to me, he deserved to win.

I can't say that I was happy just for Jeff. I was happy for me too. It's a guilty pleasure of mine to hear the national anthem at international events. It makes me proud to see our flag hanging in front of thousands of people. Congratulations Jeff !

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