It's been almost a week and a half since the unthinkable happened in Japan where an 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami wreaked havoc on the island nation. For figure skaters in the final stages of preparation for the ISU World Figure Skating Championships, the Japanese tragedy pretty much ground them to a halt.
The ISU explored every possible solution to keep the championships in Japan, but on Monday morning it issued a statement indicating that they were actively looking for a new country to host the event and, presumably on a new date in the spring.
Canada is one of six countries to have submitted bids to host. The ISU council will vote Wednesday or Thursday on the site and determine the dates in late April or early May.
While the "suits" in figure skating work on a solution to the very complex problem of where and how to host the world championships, there are coaches around the skating world who have been "working the problem" themselves for their skaters.
Marina Zoueva, along with Igor Shpilband, make up the coaching team responsible for five teams who have qualified for the world championships, including ice dance rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the Olympic silver medallists from the U.S., and defending Olympic and world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.
"When I first heard about the news, I thought right away it would be a big problem because the nuclear plant had a problem because of earthquake," Zoueva said.
This was a scenario about which Zoueva had first hand experience. "I was still in Russia when Chernobyl happened and we knew everything because Ukraine was still part of Soviet Union. At first they say only small leak and then it became big problem. I think that Japan also turned out to be very big problem."
Very quickly, each of the federations explained to their own skaters what might happen with regard to the world championships and Zoueva focus shifted to helping the skaters stay on track.
Without any concrete information though, it was difficult to know what to do.
"I kept the skaters doing normal on ice routine and then gave them exercises based on next year's compulsory dance [for the short dance]." She continued with a chuckle: "I just stretched everything."
Skating and waiting
In Canada, at a suburban Toronto rink, Carol Lane, along with coaching partner Juris Razgulajevs, make up the primary coaches for Canadian ice dance champions Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier. She echoed the same sentiments in a recent telephone conversation.
"It was a very difficult week because we were in limbo," Lane said. "They did their run throughs. They are skating beautifully, by the way, just the way I would have wanted them to before worlds. They snuck off and worked a little on the Rhumba [for next year's short dance] I let them taper off at the end of the week and take the weekend off."
Lane says that it's going to be challenging whatever is decided. She says there is lots more going into the mix than simply finding a rink and hotel rooms to accommodate the skaters and officials. "They run out of ice at the end of the week in Europe" is one example from Lane, who has many coaching colleagues and skating friends around the world who will have to scramble in order to keep training.
"I just feel so desperately sorry; it's just awful what has happened. As far as worlds is concerned, doing it somewhere else is perfectly feasible and acceptable, but given the circumstances I would also be comfortable with it being cancelled."
Either way Lane says time is of the essence and they really do need to have a firm decision by the end of the week in order to make the necessary accommodations to their schedules.
Back in Michigan, Zoueva recounted a feeling she likened to depression in the rink after the news of the earthquake broke.
"Skating is like a family. I know many of the skaters and their families for very long time and I worry about what's happening to them."
Her son Fedor Andreev and dance partner Jana Khokhlova are committed to a fundraising show for Japanese relief on April 3 in Ontario, Calif., called Skaters Care. Zoueva says she's committed to helping the cause in whatever way she can.
"If it wouldn't conflict with possible new worlds date, I will send my other skaters as well. I absolutely want to help as much as possible."
In the meantime though, all anyone can do among the world's elite figure skaters, is to continue skating and waiting.
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