Road To The Olympic Games

Figure Skating

Great performances, a near-disastrous collision highlight opening of skating worlds

In my line of work, I get the chance to see skaters up close and personal. There is optimism and hope on the faces of each skater as they hit the ice. It’s as if they are all thinking, “today will be the day for triumph.” The thing is, anything can happen, and it often does.

Day 1 opens with plenty of surprises

Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers, left, and Michael Marinaro currently sit in fifth following their short program. (Andy Wong/Associated Press)

In my line of work, I get the chance to see skaters up close and personal. There is optimism and hope on the faces of each skater as they hit the ice. It's as if they are all thinking, "today will be the day for triumph." The thing is, anything can happen, and it often does.

The pairs event at the world championships in Saitama, Japan is off to a great start.

Canadians and national champions, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro skated well. They were a little disappointed in themselves with a couple of minor errors but are ready to fight for a medal in the free program on Thursday. They sit in fifth place with 73.08 points, about two-and-a-half points out of third.

WATCH | Moore-Towers and Marinaro skate to fifth:

Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro find themselves in 5th after their pairs short program at the world figure skating championships. 3:54

Canada's silver national medallists Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud had a solid skate.

"I was nervous to start with" said Walsh.

It didn't show. They ended up in 12th place after the short program. Not bad for their first appearance at the world championships.

Event favourites from China, Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, didn't disappoint, earning a record score of 79.24 in the short program before losing it an hour later to eventual leaders from Russia, Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who delivered an 81.21.

WATCH | Tarasova and Morozov leading after short program:

Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozv of Russia sit 1st after the pairs short program in Saitama, Japan. 4:00

In my mind, the teams to watch were all happening in the final group, including my pick for world champions, Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres from France. It was business as usual on the warm-up until there was a collision. The Italian pair team of Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise were also running through their check list of elements during the six-minute warm-up when fate intervened. Accidents happen.

"I wanted to slow down when I saw Vanessa," said Guarise. "I am a big guy and she is so tiny."

Frankly, it is amazing to me that more accidents don't happen. If you have ever seen figure skating live, the speed at which the athletes are moving is quite astonishing. For the most part on a practice that involves pairs skaters, the patterns of movement on the ice are typical, and teams know how to get out of each other's way.

There is no doubt in anyone's mind, least of all the skaters, that a crash on warm-up is going to leave its mark in performance. For the newly crowned European champions, the disappointment registered clearly on their faces after their short program as they ended up in seventh place, about 13 points behind the leaders. The chances are not strong that James and Cipres will win or even make the podium which is a bit of a heartbreak.

The same could be said for the Italians, who also arrived in Saitama looking for a podium finish after finishing in fourth at the European Championships in January.

Della Monica and Guarise arrived in the broadcast area prepared to do interviews after their short program. After talking to Chinese TV, I requested a moment with them. They sat down and started to chat even before my camera was ready to hit record. Guarise lowered his skating pant on his left hip to reveal a mark that was already starting to bruise, and he spoke of hitting his left knee as well.

Despite the disappointment, the smiles never left their faces. You could hear the real concern in his voice as he described trying to get out of Vanessa James' way.

"I tried not to hit her," he said. "I am heavy and I didn't want to hurt her."

From the outside, their affection for one another, their blame-free and philosophical approach was a highlight for me.

Lesson learned.

With files from The Associated Press

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