Japan's Kozuka Takahiko performs his free program during the preliminary round of the world figure skating championships in Moscow. (Dmitry Lovetsky/Associated Press)
The world figure skating championships are set to officially open on Wednesday in Moscow, approximately five weeks later than originally scheduled.
The event was to have taken place in Tokyo but the devastating earthquake in early March forced the Japanese organizers to admit that holding the competition there would not be possible.
By all accounts, the Russians have done an amazing job of putting the event together with very little notice. If major problems have developed, none are visible on the surface.
The worlds will be as interesting for reasons other than the changes previously noted, with the introduction of a preliminary round (where numbers dictate) for qualification to skate the short programs.
In this system, the skaters from emerging nations would still get the experience of competing on the world stage in front of qualified judges. By capping the number of skaters performing the short programs, the official competition starts with those skaters truly challenging for titles.
Each of the disciplines has a number of direct entries, with the remaining spots filled from the preliminary round.
Pairs gets a pass
However, there was no need for a preliminary round for pairs. The men and ladies each had 18 direct entries with 12 more coming from the results of the preliminary round. The ice dance event has 15 direct entries with a further 10 being added for the short dance.
At the conclusion of the short programs and the short dance, 24 men and ladies, 16 pairs and 20 ice dance couples will skate in the free skate final.
The first preliminary round to take place was on the men's side where high-ranked skaters such as Takahiko Kozuka from Japan and Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic were among the athletes looking for a top 12-spot.
Kozuka, the eventual winner, was the thoroughbred of the event and is a threat for the podium. Canada's third entry in the men's event, national bronze medallist Joey Russell, finished in 7th place and moves on to the short program.
In ice dance, Canada's national silver medallists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje had to skate in the preliminary round and Weaver commented in a recent conversation on the advantages as she saw them:
"We think it will give us a chance to get to the competition earlier and get over our jet lag. We like the fact that we will get the chance to skate our free dance one additional time in front of the judges who will be judging our event and on the official ice."
Although the results from the preliminaries do not carry over into the competition, Weaver and Poje dominated the round, easily taking the top spot.
The final preliminary round featured the ladies, with Canada's national bronze medallist Amelie Lacoste, competing as a last-minute replacement for Myriane Samson, who withdrew due to injury.
Finishing in fifth place, Lacoste will skate her short program on Friday.
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