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Skate America will set the tone
By Terry Gannon
Special to ABCSports.com

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Skate America is the first event of the ISU Grand Prix of figure skating, a series that we at ABC covered last year. We covered every minute of it and we will do this again this year. It is the preeminent series in figure skating for eligible skates, and it will take us clear across the globe. This event kicks it all off and it is a fitting place to kick it off right here where the U.S. Olympic Training Center is.

This city has a long history of figure skating excellence. It has hosted the World Championships five times and the U.S. National Championships six times. Some of the great names that have come out of Broadmoor Skating Club here include my broadcast partner, Peggy Fleming, and Dorothy Hamill. It is a great way to get what is the start of the official figure skating season underway.

It is a terrific field in every discipline. It is as deep a field as you are going to get with many of the biggest names in the sport. If we start with the men, we have Alexei Yagudin, the three-time and reigning World champion trying to win four world titles in a row. This hasn't been done since Scott Hamilton performed this feat back in the 80's.

Todd Eldredge
Todd Eldredge strikes a pose for the "network of excellence".

Todd Eldredge is starting his comeback in eligible skating as he points toward not only a World Championship, but the only medal that he has not captured -- an Olympic medal. This is why he is coming back. Now we see Eldredge armed with a Quad, which he didn't have before, so it is a new and improved Todd Eldredge.

We also have Timothy Goebel in the field who is known as the "Quad King". Goebel has undergone the most change since the last World Championship because be he has gotten a whole new staff of coaches and advisors, plus he has heard the call of "Go West young man," as he has gone from Cleveland to Los Angeles. So many things are new for Goebel entering into this season. I don't want to forget two-time U.S. medallist Trifun Zivanovic, who is a skater that has made a name for himself on the international scene. This is a great field for the men.

Michelle Kwan is the headliner. We will see what the new year will bring for Kwan as she continues to re-invent herself. She has pointed to Madonna as one of her role models, not in lifestyle, but in setting goals constantly and changing these goals to keep things fresh in re-inventing herself. It is exciting to see what the new year will bring for her.

Sarah Hughes, a young teenager, has now already been to the World Championships twice and last year finished in the top five, which is incredible for such a young skater. She will be fun to watch and admire as she improves her skating performance. Another of the youth movement, Russian Viktoria Volchkova, who is one of the ones that all of the experts say has the most potential out of any of the young skaters coming up. She has been to the World Championships a couple of times at the age of 18 and she has won two European bronze medals. Another deep field with big names taking the ice for the ladies.

Jamie Salé and David Pelletier , the Canadian pair that took the world by storm last year and fell just short at the World Championships of capturing a medal, will look to improve this season. Americans Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman, this is their third season together, so this should be their best. This is a year where they should really make a move and there is no better place to start that than at Skate America by letting the judges know that they are for real this year. China's Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, the two-time World silver medallist, definitely believe they can win a World Championship this season. So the Americans have a difficult road to overcome, but are in a line to medal.

As far as ice dance is concerned, Italy's Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio have been eagerly awaiting this season. Last year, when they came in second at the World Championships, Fusar-Poli said, "Not next year. Next we will be number one." Skate America is the start of that run toward dethroning the French World Champions, Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizeret. Lithuanians Margarita Drobiazka and Povilas Vanagas were the surprise medallist at last year's World Championship and should make this interesting. Also the return of four-time world bronze medallists Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz throw something else into the mix. They return after injury with a new coach and new style. We will see if it works for them although there are a lot of question marks for Bourne and Kraatz. American Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev have so many hopes pinned on them, but they are also entering the season with new coaches.

There is so much change in the world of ice dance with so much moving around and new coaches. We will see what that change has brought.

Terry Gannon covers figure skating and college football for ABC Sports and is a frequent contributor to ABC Sports Online.



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 Michelle Kwan gracefully lands a triple lutz then moves on to her trademark spiral.
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