Buttle getting help from Browning
||November 10, 2005|
TORONTO (CP) - A mentorship program for Olympic-bound athletes is
paying figure skater Jeff Buttle immediate dividends.
Buttle now has a place to bunk for free when he motors in from his
Barrie training base. "My place is your place," Kurt Browning told
Buttle on Thursday. In exactly three months, Buttle will glide onto
the ice in Turin, Italy, to perform his short program.
"I'm scared, obviously, about the Olympics," said the 2005 world
silver medallist. "I've never been and I don't know what to expect.
"Kurt let me know that he was scared, too. It's good to know that
he had the same fears as I'm having. It's comforting."
In the next three months, he'll talk to his mentor whenever he
"He has a lot to offer," Buttle said of the four-time world
champion. "He went to three Olympic Games and I haven't even been to
one yet. I'll have a lot of questions and I'm pretty sure he'll be
full of answers."
Browning, short-track speed skater Nathalie Lambert and Ian Balfour
of the Canadian Disabled Alpine Ski Team are the mentors for the 2006
Olympic hopefuls in the program sponsored by Visa.
The company has selected Buttle, alpine skier Emily Brydon, speed
skater Clara Hughes, luge racer Jeff Christie, freestyle skier Deidra
Dionne, hockey player Danielle Goyette and Nordic skiing Paralympians
Colette Bourgonje and Brian McKeever to become part of Team Visa.
Some aren't guaranteed a spot on Canada's Winter Games team yet, of
course, since their federations are yet to announce selections.
They join swimmer Brent Hayden, high jumper Nicole Forrester and
diver Myriam Boileau, who were selected leading up to the 2004 Summer
Games and who remain in the program through Beijing 2008.
Visa also is supplying financial assistance to the athletes on a
Chris Rudge, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, calls the
mentorship program "exceptionally timely and well-targeted."
"We have failed our athletes in the past in preparing them move
from potential to success," he said during a Visa news
conference. "Our conversion rate in this country is terrible compared
to other countries, and it's not the athletes' fault.
"It's our fault. We didn't recognize the importance of mentors" who
might help Canadians finish on the podium instead of fifth or sixth.
Dionne, in particular, is grateful to have mentors in whom to
The 23-year-old resident of Red Deer, Alta., broke her neck in a
practice in Australia before a World Cup competition in early
September. She intends to be back on skis by mid-December, and in
Turin for Olympic aerials qualifying jumps Feb. 19. Time spent
Wednesday and Thursday with Browning, Lambert and Balfour eased her
"Kurt talked about being injured so badly (going into the 1992
Winter Games) he could barely lift his legs," said Dionne. "Ian has
dealt with serious knee injuries, and there have been other athletes,
too, going into the Olympics not perfectly ready.
"(The mentors) remind me that it's whoever is best at the amount
that gets the medals. It doesn't matter what you're lead-up is. That's
something I'll take from this week - that everybody deals with
injuries, it's not just you."
Lambert won short-track relay gold in 1992 and two silver medals in
1994. She's experienced the anxiety that grows with high expectations
of the public and of the media.
"All you're talking about every day all the time is the Olympics
and it can be too much," she said. "I hope that, when it becomes a
little too much, they'll call us or e-mail us when they want to know
what they can do to tone it down.
"We're here to say: stick to your plan and to what you can control,
and that's your performance."
In the weeks leading to her 1994 Olympic competitions she became
more and more nervous, she said.
"We can get outside our control zone where we do our best
performances," she said. "The difference between being in that zone
and out of that zone is a thin line."
She says she'll remind the athletes she's mentoring that, whatever
the outcome in Turin, it won't be the end of the world. Browning will
do the same.
"I asked Jeff: 'Do you consider me a failure? I was at two Olympics
as world champion and neither time - once because of injury and once
because I just screwed up - I didn't do it. I didn't even get a
bronze. Am I a failure to you?'
"He said, 'No, no, no.'
"I said, 'Neither will you be. How you represent yourself, your
family and your country is more important than what medal you win. You
can win and still be a loser.'
"Scott Hamilton said, 'The Olympics will make you a better person
no matter what happens at the Olympics."'