Figure skating worlds officially in limbo

March, 14, 2011
3/14/11
5:04
PM ET
The figure skating world championships slated for Tokyo next week are now officially in limbo. This morning's announcement by the International Skating Union -- which, given the obvious magnitude of the disaster in Japan, seemed unnecessarily delayed -- resolved just one thing: The event will not be held at the original site.

ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta didn't rule out any options in an interview with the Chicago Tribune's Philip Hersh today. Postponement, relocation and cancellation are all still on the table.

Alternate sites in Asia and Europe would seem to be more logical to serve as last-minute hosts than Canada or the United States, where major arenas are booked this time of year with hockey and pro and college basketball.

Japan is trying to rebuild their country, and we would have walked in there saying 'Hi! We're here to ice-skate! Come watch us!' That seems a little silly in the scheme of things.

-- U.S. men's champion Ryan Bradley on worlds being postponed
Those I contacted seemed confident that the championships will be held.

"We just need two questions answered -- when and where," said prominent ice dancing coach Igor Shpilband, whose suburban Detroit stable includes defending world and Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada and Olympic silver medalists and U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

The American duo represents the U.S. team's best world championship medal hopes and its showdown with Virtue and Moir, who have missed most of the season while Virtue recovered from surgery, is highly anticipated.

Davis said she and White are sticking to their training routine, "doing all we can do, which is all we can expect of ourselves."

"While we love and enjoy what we do, and it brings a lot of pleasure to people who watch our sport, what is going on in Japan really brings it all back to earth," she said. "I think it's a really good thing world championships were postponed, because the Japanese people have more important things to think about."

Davis and White were committed to joining the Smuckers Stars on Ice tour for the last six shows, beginning in early April, but may have to bow out depending on what skating officials decide about the timing of world championships, Davis said.

From the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, coach Tom Zakrajsek said his skaters, U.S. men's champion Ryan Bradley and silver medalist Rachael Flatt, have done a good job of maintaining their normal practice routines in a decidedly abnormal situation.

"Certainly, the question mark is difficult, but this is an extraordinary situation," Zakrajsek said. "I try to teach my athletes to be flexible, and this is a major lesson in flexibility. Most of the athletes are very experienced at being in the moment."

Zakrajsek said he and the skaters have worked with "lumps in our stomachs" since the news of the disaster first broke. They had a firsthand view of the stress when members of a Japanese television crew who had come to the rink to film interviews Friday couldn't locate their families.

Bradley expressed relief that the championships won't be held in Tokyo. "Japan is trying to rebuild their country, and we would have walked in there saying 'Hi! We're here to ice-skate! Come watch us!' That seems a little silly in the scheme of things."

Still, athletes are used to routine, and Bradley said it's an odd feeling to be up in the air. "We know that five days out we do this, four days out we do that. Now, we don't know when we're leaving or where we're going ... but I feel very confident that under any circumstances, I'll be ready to go out and do my best."

Boston-based U.S. bronze medalist Ross Miner's first thoughts were for his friend, 2010 world junior champion and 2011 Four Continents silver medalist Yuzuru Hanyu, whose hometown of Sendai was devastated by the earthquake and ensuing tsunami. Miner's coach Mark Mitchell said the skater was able to establish that Hanyu was OK through social media.

"Twitter and Facebook have been great for all these kids in being able to make sure everyone's safe," Mitchell said.

Most team members had been scheduled to travel to Tokyo this weekend. "What happened in Japan makes worlds, and skating, seem so minuscule," Mitchell said. "Ross is a kid who has a really good perspective and knows there are bigger things in life."

The disaster in Japan has touched everyone in the U.S. worlds delegation, some more directly than others. Yuka Sato, the coach and former world champion from Japan who had a huge role in getting U.S. ladies champion Alissa Czisny back on track this season, told Detroit Free Press writer Jo-Ann Barnas she had some anxious moments before she was able to verify that her parents were safe near their home in Yokohama.

Bonnie D. Ford

Enterprise and Olympic Sports
Bonnie D. Ford is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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