“When he was twelve, he wrote on his goal sheet, here in Sudbury, that he was going to the Olympics, and that I would be going with him.”
“He” would be none other than 2008 World Figure Skating champion and 2006 Winter Olympics bronze medal winner Jeffrey Buttle, and the quote above from long-time Sudbury coach Wendy Philion marked the beginning of an incredible journey that was completed years later in Italy.
“When he became (Canadian) Senior champion, we were already looking at Torino, looking into tickets,” recalled Philion. “It was kind of a given that I was going for a few years before.” In the end, she would join Buttle’s parents (Lesley and Peter), his sister (Meghan), a pair of aunts and another friend, all staying together in a condo in the host city.
“Having that personal connection and being there was a really unique experience, and something I will always remember,” said Philion. “That was pretty special for me, to go with the family and be there, right by Medal’s Plaza, and going to Canada House, every night. You really get into the spirit of it. You celebrate every Canadian medal, not just figure skating. You really get hooked.”
While Philion contemplated attending the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the reality was that it would be difficult to duplicate everything that her indoctrination to the Games had to offer. “Even for me to go to Italy, which is my father’s heritage – that was my first trip to Italy,” she said.
“I wasn’t just going to go for Jeff’s events,” Philion continued. “If I was going, I wanted to experience the Olympics, to stay there and enjoy the whole thing. I really enjoyed the freestyle skiing. I had never been close to that sort of event.”
And while their entire stay was filled with countless highlights, there is one day that stood out above the rest. “The night he won the medal was quite unique,” noted Philion. “We decided to go back and eat together in a restaurant that we liked in the square.” Unfortunately, by the time they arrived, the restaurant had closed, though staff were still on hand, tidying things up.
“Jeff showed them his medal, so they opened up the restaurant, sat with us, served us. We had the restaurant to ourselves to privately celebrate the medal.”