Canadian team in holding pattern after worlds postponement
ISU looking for replacement venue
Skate Canada says its figure skating team will be ready to go — whenever.
The world championships remain in limbo after the International Skating Union cancelled the competition scheduled to start in Tokyo next week.
Against the backdrop of destruction from Friday's earthquake and tsunami in Japan, missing out on a medal is a small price to pay.
"The skaters understand, this is something that is just so out of our control," said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high performance director. "Our team definitely respects the situation that's occurred there. Skating is a small part right now in the whole scope of everything.
"Sometimes you get these lessons that kind of brings you back to reality that what you do is a passion and something you enjoy, but there's a whole other world out there."
Parts of Japan have been devastated by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, triggering emergencies at nuclear power plants. The official death toll from the disaster is about 2,800 with thousands of people still missing. More than one million households are without power and water.
The ISU has stepped up efforts to find a new venue and dates for its marquee event, originally scheduled for March 21-27. It could announce a backup plan this week after spending much of Monday in calls with potential replacements.
Slipchuk held a conference call with his athletes and coaches Monday, including Patrick Chan and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, favourites to claim gold this year.
Chan, from Toronto, won the Grand Prix Final in December and is the two-time defending world silver medallist. Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., are the defending world and Olympic ice dance champions.
Slipchuk said he told his skaters, most of whom had been scheduled to fly to Tokyo on Friday, to turn down the intensity level on their training for now, but be ready to go in two or three weeks.
"That's all we can control, is just make sure our athletes stay ready and if a decision is made or a venue is changed, that our team is ready to go," he said.
While the ISU wouldn't name potential host candidates, Italy has a possible candidate in 2006 Olympic host Turin, which also hosted the world championships last year. South Korea staged the recent junior world championships, and might appreciate another chance to show its hosting skills since Pyeongchang is bidding for the 2018 Winter Games.
But if the event is cancelled outright, Slipchuk said figure skating is fortunate that a world championship is held every year.
"If it's able to be held, great, but if for whatever reason it's not, then you move forward," he said.
ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta said the governing body took into account "critical developments" in Japan.
"The ISU's primary concern [is] for the safety of all participants, spectators and members of concerned entities as well as the travel advisories from many governments to avoid travel to Japan until the situation is settled," Cinquanta said in a statement.
"The postponement of the event or alternatively the final cancellation is under evaluation," the Italian official said.
Skate Canada officials released a statement saying they supported the ISU's decision, and Slipchuk added they would have thought twice about sending a team to Tokyo had it not been called off.
"We agree it's not one the best time to do a sporting event in the country, but also we would not want to send our athletes into a situation that is not deemed as safe, and that's our No. 1 priority with our skaters," Slipchuk said. "We probably would have assessed the situation even if worlds moved forward, on the safety."
The World Team Trophy in figure skating scheduled to be held in Yokohama on April 14-17, also has been called off.
The ISU initially hoped to proceed with the worlds because the Yoyogi stadium venue was undamaged by Friday's earthquake. However, on Sunday it was considering because of the "very worrisome" nuclear crisis.
The world figure skating championships were first held 1896. They weren't held during the First World War, from 1915-1921, or the Second World War, 1940-1946. They were cancelled in 1961 after the plane crash that killed the entire U.S. figure skating team.
The 2003 women's world hockey championships in Beijing were cancelled because of the SARS outbreak there.