VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Question: Will American audiences tune in to a ladies figure skating competition in which an American is not in the hunt for the gold medal? Maybe not even make an appearance on the podium? It hasn't happened since 1964, but we may find out in the next few days, for this Olympic gold will be decided between a couple of longtime Asian rivals: South Korea and Japan.
But if you appreciate great skating, don't let that put you off.
It will be difficult, because Kim, winner of 9 of her last 11 starts dating back to 2008, is an idol in Korea, by far the country's most famous athlete. The entire nation will be watching her, hoping she will crush the two Japanese skaters that are expected to be her fiercest competition, 19-year-old
As for the two Japanese ladies, they have the luxury of being underdogs, and in Asada's case, a very dangerous underdog. Asada is the only woman in the world now landing the triple axel with consistency, and she has one planned in her short program, plus two more in her free skate. She landed all four that she attempted Monday in practice with ease. The problem is that she puts her triple axel at the front end of her combination jump, then only tacks on a simple double toe loop. Base value of those two jumps: 9.5 points. The base value of Kim's most difficult combination, a triple Lutz-triple toe loop? 10.00. Advantage: Kim. If Asada cannot tack a triple toe loop onto her triple axel, which it appears she cannot, then her only hope to beat the Korean is if Kim implodes from the pressure.
It's more likely that will happen to the inconsistent Asada, who was 2008 World Champion but finished fourth in that event in 2009. She got off to a terrible start this season and failed to qualify for the Grand Prix finals, which Kim won. As for Miki Ando, the 2007 World Champion and third place finisher in the Worlds in '09, she'll be waiting on the sidelines in case both favorites crash and burn. Why not? It happened in 2006 for her countrywoman,
Other potential medalists -- bronze medalists, that is -- include both American ladies, 17-year-old
Finally, there is Canada's