January 01, 2005

The Battle on the Ice

For the first time in over a century, the World Figure Skating Championships will be held in Russia – the country that dominates the sport like no other. At last year’s event, Russian skaters took three out of the top four honors; this year, from March 14-20, the planet’s best skaters will vie for a world title that will be a prelude to next year’s main event – the XX Winter Olympiad. A central story of this major sporting event will be two Russian champions: one who has achieved it all, the other who is still hunting for Olympic gold; one who is skating at the Worlds, one who is not. Theirs is an epic rivalry, each skater striving to be remembered by history as the sport’s best, to be honored by their compatriots as the most beloved.

For those who appreciate a jolt of adrenaline in their skating, there’s nothing like the men’s event for high, sweeping speed, huge jumps, and dramatic story lines. This year will be no exception. Reigning three-time world champion Evgeni Plushenko, a megastar in Russia, will fight to defend his title, and maintain his campaign towards Olympic gold, facing off against France’s Brian Joubert, the protégé of Plushenko’s long-time rival, Alexei Yagudin.

Yagudin, 24, the 2002 Olympic gold medalist is himself a four-time World Champion, and he now calls the US home. Prior to the 2002 Olympics, Yagudin had won three world championships before Plushenko surged, spending the entire pre-Olympic season stripping Yagudin of every major title.

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