Ice Network

Buttle shares knowledge with aspiring Olympians

2006 Olympic bronze medalist encourages athletes to enjoy the moment
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Jeffrey Buttle's insights on what it takes to reach the highest levels of figure skating have helped aspiring Olympians like Vincent Zhou. -Vincent Zhou's Instagram (instagram.com/govincentzhou)

This summer was an extremely busy one for Olympic bronze medalist Jeffrey Buttle, a highly sought after choreographer whose credentials speak for themselves. Buttle made several trips to Japan to choreograph programs and perform in shows during the summer months, and when he returned home to Toronto, he continued sharing his expertise with various skaters.

"It starts with choosing the music," Buttle said, about getting skaters ready for an Olympic season. "You want to pick something that is right for the skater, but at the same time, you want the music to give a wow moment."

Most of the skaters he works with come to Toronto, but in August, the 2008 world champion headed to Colorado for U.S. Figure Skating's Champs Camp. The U.S. skaters Buttle worked with this season include Vincent Zhou, Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu, and he's choreographed for defending Olympic men's gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu as well as several other Japanese skaters.

Buttle also worked with Canadian ladies champion and reigning world silver medalist Kaetlyn Osmond on a new free skate. In creating programs for the Olympic season, Buttle makes sure that skaters stay positive and on track.

"It's really about using that moment," said Buttle. "You use an Olympic medal as a tool and say, 'This is a possibility. Use that as motivation in your training.' It's also about making sure that they're maintaining, they're not overdoing. It's about being reasonable and mature in the way they approach the training."

When Buttle, 35, prepared for the Torino Games, he spent the spring of 2005 pushing hard on off-ice conditioning. As the season progressed, he focused on run-throughs. He worked hard to keep things in perspective and not put too much pressure on himself on a daily basis.

"I was definitely hungry, and I used that as motivation," Buttle said. "I wanted the gold medal, but it wasn't until 2008 that I thought, 'I'm going to get the gold medal.' It's a different mentality to want it and to believe you can do it.

"It's good to use the 'want' for your training, but when you go to compete, you need to believe in yourself. You need to know that it's yours."

The 2006 Winter Games turned out to be Buttle's only Olympic appearance. He's glad that while he was in Italy, he immersed himself in the experience as much as he could, including staying in the Olympic Village and attending other sporting events.

"One of the greatest memories was marching in the opening ceremony and feeling so proud to represent my country," Buttle said. "It was a very special moment."

While in Torino, Buttle found himself stressed leading up to the short program, in which he finished sixth. He said the day off between the short and free skate helped get him back on track.

"You picture in your mind, you want this perfect Olympic experience. I think what I took out of it is that there's no such thing as a perfect experience. It was real and it was a test of my strength. I came out of it a better person," Buttle said.

Without overstepping his bounds, Buttle now tries to impart wisdom on the skaters he's helping prepare for competition. He wants them to have their own experiences, but he wants them to know he's always available to share his insights.

He said, "It's my job to make sure they're comfortable in their programs and everything is feeling great. If they feel great, they'll perform great."