Japanese stars want to 'give hope' with showing

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MOSCOW --- Figure skating's top athletes take to the ice for the world championships a month later than they'd expected and in a different country.

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Miki Ando is among Japan's brightest stars in the world championships, which begins today.   Associated Press
Associated Press
Miki Ando is among Japan's brightest stars in the world championships, which begins today.

The championships' hasty relocation to Moscow from Tokyo after Japan's catastrophic earthquake has been a challenge to every skater's training schedule. But for some, it's also brought an additional jolt of motivation.

"I feel like, 'OK, I can do it and I have to do something for the people who are living ... in Japan,' " says Miki Ando, a top contender for women's gold.

"So many people can't have a normal life any more, and so many people died, or they don't know where they are still, so I feel like I couldn't be like normal.

"But after so many people were telling me and so many people were sending (messages) to me 'go forward' ... they push me to feel better to skate."

After two days of qualification rounds, the championships open today at the Megasport Arena with the men's short program.

"I don't want to think about what happened in Japan. But to show everything I can do here is the best thing I can do for everybody," said defending men's champion Daisuke Takahashi of Japan. "I'd like to give joy and hope to the people with my skating."

The championships originally were to have started March 21 in Tokyo, and the ensuing uncertainty and rescheduling left most skaters wobbling with doubt and anxiety about how to train.

"When we knew about Tokyo and Russia I was very tired, and it was very difficult to come back on the ice again to get ready for the world championship," said Brian Joubert, of France, a bronze medalist at the past two worlds.

But most appear to have adjusted.

"I think we're all in the same boat, on the same playing field," said Canada's Patrick Chan, the reigning silver medalist. "It feels like a world championship, like it always does."

Japanese fans seeking consolation through the beauty and power of skating will have much to watch in this championships.

Mao Asada is defending her title and Ando, the 2007 world champion, aims for another gold. Ando recently has appeared to be resurgent, defeating Asada in the Four Continents and in the Japanese national championships.

Both, meanwhile, face the challenge of South Korea's Kim Yu-na, the Olympic gold medalist. The worlds is Kim's first competition of this season.

American Alissa Czisny, who won this season's Grand Prix Final, is also in the mix, along with countrywoman Rachel Flatt and three-time European champion Carolina Kostner.


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