The men closed out the competition at the 2008 ISU World Figure Skating Championships and gave the sold-out crowd of 9,555 spectators in the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg, Sweden quite a show.
Jeff Buttle of Canada claimed the gold medal. France’s Brian Joubert soared from sixth to second place overall and American Johnny Weir earned the bronze.
“It doesn’t feel real yet,” Buttle said. “I was just very happy with how I skated.”
Buttle, the overnight leader, had drawn last to skate in the final group. The Canadian opened his performance to the “Ararat” soundtrack with a solid triple Axel-double toe-double loop followed by a triple flip-triple toe and another triple Axel.
He went on to nail a triple Lutz-double toe, a triple loop, Salchow and another Lutz as well as excellent spins. At the end of his program, he happily punched the ice in triumph.
The 2006 Olympic bronze medalist was awarded a level four for all four spins and a level three for both step sequences to post a new personal best of 163.07 points (84.29 element score/78.78 program component score).
The 25-year-old improved his previous personal best by 11.27 points and racked up a total score of 245.17 points to take his first World title. The Canadian waited anxiously in the kiss and cry for the score, and when it came up he looked in disbelief and jumped up to wave to the crowd.
"I stepped on the ice and it didn’t matter that I skated last,” Buttle said. “I adapted to that, I’ve done it at home and I was ready. There were no excuses.”
Buttle had won the silver at the 2005 World Championships but was ranked sixth in 2006 and 2007. His title is the first gold medal for a Canadian man since 1997, when Elvis Stojko won.
Joubert, who stood in sixth place after the short program skated next to last and was ready to fight when he took the ice. He had followed the competition and knew exactly what he had to do.
The 2007 World champion nailed his opening quadruple toe loop, a triple Salchow and triple Axel as well as a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, a triple Lutz, loop and flip in his Metallica medley program.
The crowd was with him when he went into his straight line step sequence and when he finished the program he knelt down onto the ice and kissed it. The two-time European champion earned a level three for his footwork and two spins and scored 153.47 points (74.11/79.36). His overall score was 231.12 points.
It was Joubert’s third World silver medal after 2004 and 2006. “I changed [my strategy] after I saw how the others did and I decided to not take a lot of risks and not to do a quad Salchow, just wanted to skate clean. The competition was great, the audience was great and I will remember this all my life,” the French star said.
Skating to “Love is War” by Yoav Gordon, Weir produced a two triple Axels, two triple Lutzes, a triple Salchow, loop and flip as well as strong spins, two of which were graded a level four. However, his opening quadruple toel loop was under-rotated and downgraded and overall Weir appeared somewhat hesitant.
The American picked up 141.05 points (67.21/73.84) for this performance and accumulated 221.84 points to win his first World medal.
“I’m so excited. It was not my strongest performance, but I am just proud for myself and for my coaches and I am proud to bring back the only medal for the USA,” the 23-year-old said. “I was a little tired towards the end and I had much nervous energy. When I was going into my starting position, my legs were still shaking.”
Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) finished fourth at 220.11 points. He landed a quadruple toe loop and four clean triple jumps, but he fell on his second quad toe attempt and stumbled on a triple Axel and loop.
A triple Lutz-double toe loop didn’t count as it was considered as a fourth, not allowed combination after the second quad, second Axel and a triple flip-triple toe.
Stéphane Lambiel (SUI) came in fifth after some errors on his jumps (217.88 points).
Kevin van der Perren (BEL) gave a strong performance to finish sixth. He completed eight triple jumps including a triple flip-triple toe-triple loop combination (216.02 points) and was ranked third in the Free Skating.
Sergei Voronov (RUS) was ranked fourth in the free skating and seventh overall (209.93 points). He hit a quad toe loop and seven triples to move up from 15th place after the short program.
European champion Tomas Verner (CZE) faded to 15th after popping some jumps (191.94 points).
The World Championships conclude Sunday with the Exhibition Gala.