Japan's Midori Ito, the champion seven years ago, appears today in the figure skating world championships' version of a casting call. The top 10 in the qualifying advance to compete alongside the Chen Lus, Michelle Kwans and Surya Bonalys. The others, as a consolation, can remain here to watch the week of competitions in dance, pairs and women's and men's singles without having to buy a ticket.
It could be a humbling experience for Ito, but in practices here last week she did nothing to indicate that the Japanese federation was overly optimistic in encouraging her comeback. Now, four years after she retired following her silver-medal performance in the Albertville Olympics, the figure skating world eagerly waits to see whether the purest jumper the women have ever had can cope with the pressure of competition.
Meantime, the crowd in the Edmonton Coliseum Sunday discovered that U.S. champion Rudy Galindo's "Swan Lake" plays on the road as well as at home. Inspired by performing in his hometown, Galindo, who had never finished higher than fifth in singles before, won the national championship two months ago in San Jose with a long program that received two perfect scores of 6.0 for its artistry.
Galindo, 26, showed that was not a one-time sensation in the men's qualifying here, skating the same long program almost as well to easily win his group and advance to the main competition that starts with Wednesday's short program. Disdaining conventional wisdom to skate conservatively in qualifying, he hit eight triple jumps, including six in combination. His scores ranged from 5.6 to 5.9.
"I had something to prove," said Galindo, who did not appear to be hindered by the injury to his left ankle that forced him to withdraw from a competition last month in St. Petersburg, Russia.
"Is San Jose just a once-in-a-lifetime performance? Now that I've shown I can do back-to-back good performances, I'm pretty confident."
Dan Hollander, the U.S. bronze medalist from Huntington Woods, Mich., also qualified by finishing second to Galindo despite suffering from flu that caused him to miss some practices last week. He was so sick that his roommate here, Galindo, moved to another room. "I would have done the same thing if I was Rudy," Hollander said.
Todd Eldredge, the runner-up in the U.S. championships from Detroit, did not have to qualify by virtue of finishing second to Canada's Elvis Stojko in last year's world championships in Birmingham, England. The top 10 men and women are exempt from qualifying the next year.
As a result of that rule, Michelle Kwan, the 15-year-old U.S. champion from Torrance, does not have to skate in the women's qualifying today. She finished fourth in the world last year and is among the favorites here after winning four of five international competitions this year. She has twice beaten defending champion Chen of China.
Nicole Bobek also would have received a waiver into the main competition that begins with the short program Friday because she was third in the world last year. But she did not qualify for the U.S. team after withdrawing from the competition before the long program in San Jose because of an ankle injury.
Instead, the other two U.S. women here are veteran Tonia Kwiatkowski, 25, and newcomer Tara Lipinski, 13. Kwiatkowski, a college graduate from Lakewood, Ohio who finished second to Kwan in the national championships, is seeking to redeem herself today after failing to advance beyond the qualifying in her only other world championship appearance, in 1989. Lipinski, the bronze medalist in the national championships from Detroit, is making her international senior debut after finishing fourth in last year's world junior championships.
Competition in dance and pairs begins Tuesday. In pairs, three-time national champions Jenni Meno and Todd Sand of Costa Mesa return in an attempt to at least duplicate last year's third-place finish.