Skating Championships Take The Rink In Alternate City



The top women and men figure skaters are lacing up for the world championships. They begin tomorrow in Moscow, and the host city is as newsworthy as the skaters. The contests were to be held a month ago in Tokyo, but the massive earthquake in Japan forced the International Skating Union to scramble for a substitute venue.

Sports columnist Christine Brennan of USA Today is in the studio. Good morning. Nice to see you again.

Ms. CHRISTINE BRENNAN (Sports Columnist, USA Today): Great to see you, Liane.

HANSEN: So, what does the tragedy in Japan, the uncertainty over whether the Worlds would be cancelled, the month-long delay, mean for the competitors?

Ms. BRENNAN: It's really been disruptive. And for several weeks they didn't know if they'd even have a world championships. But I think in this time, Liane, of such self-centered athletes and, you know, the behavior is so awful in professional sports, these figure skaters around the world distinguish themselves for the comments they made.

They said, yeah, it's disruptive of my training and I don't know what I'm doing and I've got to start all over again for these five weeks but it's so miniscule compared to what's happening in Japan. And I think they are a shining example of sportsmanship and worthy of our attention because of how wonderful and magnanimous they were towards the people of Japan compared to their plight of having their practice disrupted.

HANSEN: Let's talk about the sports angle, specifically the return to competition of the 2010 Olympic gold medalist Yu-Na Kim of South Korea. What's she been doing? What are her chances at the Worlds?

Ms. BRENNAN: That's a great question, Liane, because what she's been doing, she's been on red carpets and she's been doing benefits and shows and photo shoots and commercials galore. She's a multimillionaire in South Korea. Of course, won the Olympics last year, the great prize of women's gold medal in figure skating and went back to South Korea and cashed in. And certainly she should've.

But here's she comes back - it's so rare to see someone take an entire year off and then come back at the biggest event of the year, the World Championships, and think you can win it. But if anyone can do that, Yu-Na Kim can in this year of all years.

HANSEN: And who are her rivals, her top rivals?

Ms. BRENNAN: A couple of Japanese skaters who are going to be, of course, sentimental favorites. Mao Asada, who is trying to win her second world title in a row. And if she does that, first time since Michelle Kwan in women's figure skating in the early part of the century. And Miki Ando. So, those two, I think, are the ones to watch. Asada won the silver medal at the Olympics behind Yu-Na Kim and I think would love to beat her again at the world championships.

HANSEN: American skater Evan Lysacek, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, will not compete in the men's event. He's doing red carpet, he's turned pro. He appears in ice shows, at benefits. So, who among the men is worth watching?

Ms. BRENNAN: I think it's going to be a battle between Canada's Patrick Chan and another Japanese skater, Daisuke Takahashi. Now, Takahashi's 25 years old and is the reigning world champion. And, again, coming from Japan, with all emotion feeling, you know, not now skating in his home country but skating in an event that should have been in his home country, and the Olympic bronze medalist from last year.

And then Patrick Chan is five years younger than Takahashi. He is the two-time defending world silver medalist and went into the Olympics in Vancouver, in Canada, his home country, and did not perform well and I think he would love to finally get a world title. He's building to the 2014 Olympics. This could be the moment where he really breaks out.

HANSEN: USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan. Thanks so much for coming in.

Ms. BRENNAN: Always a pleasure, Liane. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.