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Buttle takes lead at Canadians after short program

Defending champ not ready to give up his title

Three-time Canadian champion Jeffrey Buttle leads at worlds.
Three-time Canadian champion Jeffrey Buttle leads at worlds. (Getty Images)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(01/19/2008) - Jeffrey Buttle said he came to Vancouver to win. Patrick Chan said he did not. It might work out well for both of them.

In the men's short program, Buttle brushed aside the shaky start to his season and did all he could to ensure he will leave Vancouver with his fourth national crown. Skating his best short this season, Buttle collected 80.80 points for a nearly faultless performance of his revived "Adios Nonino" program.

Chan, the upstart challenger who was expected to give Buttle a run for his money here at the 2008 BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships, stumbled out of his triple Axel and wound up 7.38 points back in second place.

Christopher Mabee also redeemed his early season blunders with a clean performance to claim third at 70.46 points, 1.36 points ahead of high-flying Vaughn Chipeur, whose triple Axel drew gasps from the Pacific Coliseum crowd.

"I just wanted to go out there and enjoy myself. I've been training way too well to go out there and not do well," said Buttle, the 2006 Olympic bronze medalist.

"I told myself coming in: I'm not plateauing. I'm getting better. I'm so much stronger than I was a year ago. As long as I keep that improvement, there's no reason to doubt myself or come thinking I might not be as strong as the others.

"I'm not here to have a good time. Obviously, I want to enjoy myself, but I'm here to defend my title, and I don't want anyone else to take it from me," Buttle added.

Of the error on the Axel, which forced Chan to put two hands on the ice, incurring a one-point deduction for a fall, the 17-year-old said, "I guess it's to be expected, because this season up to now, the triple Axel in all programs was landed. There's always one bad egg out of the whole basket. Hopefully, the next one I won't miss, and I'll have another streak of triple Axels."

Chan, who won the Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris last fall and qualified for the Grand Prix Final, added, "I'm not thinking about first [place]. I'm just thinking about maintaining my spot right now. It's the least of my worries to come first.

"It's not the Olympic year yet. I'm working my way up. I don't want to make that big jump right away. I don't want to win nationals now. If it happens, it happens. I just came here to make it onto the world team," Chan concluded.

Canada has just two spots for men at the 2008 World Championships in Sweden, and on Saturday it will be "game on" as the top five do battle for those coveted berths.

Fedor Andreev, back after a three-year hiatus spent modeling and racing cars in Asia, was thrilled with his program that was good for fifth place (67.16). He incurred a one-point deduction for going just a second over the prescribed skating time, which he attributed to getting carried away with footwork that put him behind the music heading into the final spin.

"It felt awesome. I had an absolute blast. It was my first short program standing ovation, so I'm really excited about that, and everybody seemed to be really receptive," said Andreev, whose best result at Canadians was a bronze medal in 2003.