Buttle hangs up his skates

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World champ surprises everyone with retirement

Not even Vancouver's looming Olympic flame could keep the competitive fire burning in Jeffrey Buttle.

So he stunned Skate Canada and his own coach Lee Barkell by retiring, at age 26, in good health, as reigning world champion, with a home Games less than two years away.

"The city the Olympics are in shouldn't be the motivating factor for me," Buttle told a Toronto news conference on Wednesday. "I have to feel it inside. That was the breaking point for me."

Jeffery Buttle

Edmonton - Not even Vancouver's looming Olympic flame could keep the competitive fire burning in Jeffrey Buttle.

So he stunned Skate Canada and his own coach Lee Barkell by retiring, at age 26, in good health, as reigning world champion, with a home Games less than two years away.

"The city the Olympics are in shouldn't be the motivating factor for me," Buttle told a Toronto news conference on Wednesday. "I have to feel it inside. That was the breaking point for me."

Oh. My. Quad.

Elvis Stojko hung around way too long, Emanuel Sandhu faded away in typical enigmatic form and Buttle shocked the country by getting out on top.

"It's an honour. It's huge," he said of having that luxury. "Not many can accomplish what I did. For me it was obviously something that sparked this decision."

The native of Smooth Rock Falls, Ont., was completely satisfied with his 18-year career accomplishments - gold at the worlds in Goteborg, Sweden, last spring, bronze at his only Olympics two years ago in Turin, Italy, three Canadian titles, a handful of Grand Prix medals - and ready to move along. He just needed time to live with his decision before sharing it with Skate Canada officials and his fans. So he trained new programs through the summer and was happy with their development. And he tried to balance the lure of the Olympics against his waning desire to compete.

But the scales were irrevocably tipped. He was done. He was ready to go back to the University of Toronto where he has been pursuing, on and off at least, a degree in chemical engineering. He was ready to perform in ice shows. He was willing to help Skate Canada's upcoming stars, just not as an active role model any longer. And he was not ready to train for, nor would he be defined by, another Olympics.

"I've represented Canada well internationally, especially with the world championship. I don't think I really had to prove anything."

His retirement proved shocking and ill-timed, because Skate Canada certainly wasn't ready to lose him. He had been mentoring current national champ Patrick Chan, Vaughn Chipeur, Shawn Sawyer and Kevin Reynolds and the suits envisioned him shepherding two of those kids toward Vancouver. There would be tickets sold to November's Skate Canada International in Ottawa based on his appearance. And he was going to represent his country there and in China on the Grand Prix circuit. Plan B is now being formulated hastily.

The Canadian Olympic Committee is surely unhappy to see him skate off into the sunset as well, what with those high medal hopes for Vancouver. But mentally he's been gone for months. On Monday he merely made it official, telling Skate Canada chief executive officer William Thompson and high performance director Mike Slipchuk.

Organizations: Skate Canada International, University of Toronto, Canadian Olympic Committee

Geographic location: Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto Smooth Rock Falls Goteborg Sweden Turin Italy Canada China

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