Fresh from her win at the Winter Asian Games, Japan’s Shizuka Arakawa is moving on to another heady arena: the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.
She won’t be facing Olympic champion Sarah Hughes, who originally was entered in the event by the U.S. Figure Skating Association, but then withdrew.
Hughes’ absence means the top American challenger to the strong Japanese women will be world junior champion Ann Patrice McDonough, who was fourth at last month’s national championships. But the favorites will be Arakawa and her teammates, Fumie Suguri and Yukari Nakano, winners of silver and bronze, respectively, at the Asian Games.
The Four Continents begins Wednesday at Beijing’s Capital Gymnasium.
“I don’t feel any pressure. I’m just excited,” Arakawa said after a 40-minute practice session when she glided around the ice, jumping and twirling in her bright purple outfit.
Another top female contender is five-time Canadian champion Jennifer Robinson.
On the men’s side, American Scott Smith, fourth at the U.S. championships, faces Takeshi Honda, who won the gold in the Asian Games, the first Japanese male in 17 years to take the top prize in men’s figure skating.
China’s Li Chengjiang and Zhang Min, who won silver and bronze in the Asian Games, are also in the field.
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