U.S. Team in Korea for Four Continents Championships
|Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto|
Photo by Paul Harvath
(2/14/05) — Eighteen top U.S. figure skaters arrived in Gangneung, Korea, over the weekend for the 2005 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships Feb. 16-20, 2005. Three ladies, three men, three pairs teams and three ice dancing teams will compete against athletes from approximately 10 different countries in this seventh annual event, the equivalent of the European Championships for the world's top skaters in North America, Africa, Asia and Australia.
The U.S. Team won one gold medal and two bronzes in 2004, and the 2005 team looks poised to improve upon that medal count. Looking to repeat as champions is the dance team of Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto, who are on a roll after winning their second U.S. title in January 2005. Returning for their third straight year with their eyes on the gold are 2004 Four Continents bronze medalists Amber Corwin and Evan Lysacek.
Corwin will be joined in Korea by U.S. teammates Jennifer Kirk and Beatrisa Liang. Kirk won the 2002 Four Continents title, her last showing at the event. She has since won the silver medal at 2003 Smart Ones Skate America and the bronze medal at the 2004 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships. At the 2005 U.S. Championships she finished fourth. Right behind her through the years has been Corwin, who finished fourth at the 2004 U.S. Championships and eighth at the 2005 U.S. Championships. Liang will compete in the first Four Continents of her career after skating to her highest placement ever at the U.S. Championships as a senior, a fifth in 2005. The 16-year-old has improved steadily since finishing sixth at the 2003 World Junior Championships.
Lysacek, a three-time World Junior silver medalist, won his first U.S. medal on the senior level by taking the bronze at the 2005 event. He's coming off his most successful season to date ever, which included placing second at the 2004 Marshalls World Cup ahead of U.S. champion Johnny Weir and World silver medalist Brian Joubert. Joining him in Korea is the 2004 U.S. bronze medalist Matt Savoie, who finished fourth in the U.S. in 2005. Savoie first competed in Four Continents in 2001, finishing fourth. Also competing in Korea is Derrick Delmore, who finished seventh at the 2005 U.S. Championships. He has appeared at Four Continents once before, taking 10th in 2002.
Reigning U.S. pairs champions Katie Orscher & Garrett Lucash took seventh at last year's Four Continents, but they are on a recent surge that could earn them a spot on the podium with a strong finish. The relatively new team of Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig will be taking their first shot at a Four Continents Championships after placing fifth at the 2005 U.S. Championships. It is just their third international event following a first-place finish at the 2003 Golden Spin of Zagreb and a fifth at the 2004 Nebelhorn Trophy.
2005 U.S. silver medalists Rena Inoue & John Baldwin were forced to withdraw from the 2005 Four Continents Championships after Baldwin suffered a bulging disc in his back. Shortly after the U.S. Championships he was working on a new spin when his back went out. Laser treatments have healed the injury, but after being off the ice for two weeks he has decided not to risk further injury by competing without proper training time. First alternates Jennifer Don & Jonathon Hunt were also forced to turn down a trip to Korea as Hunt is currently recovering from surgery. He was diagnosed with a severely torn labrum in his right hip and underwent surgery in late January. Doctors predict full recovery by late May.
Second alternates Brooke Castile & Ben Okolski filled the spot and are in Korea for their first Four Continents, as well as their first international event on the senior level. The pair took ninth place at the 2004 World Junior Championships, then took seventh at the 2005 U.S. Championships – also their first on the senior level.
Belbin and Agosto won silver at the 2002 and 2003 Four Continents before claiming gold in 2004. Their recent success on the national and international levels makes them early favorites to repeat in Korea. In the past two years they have won two U.S. titles, two Skate America titles, one Four Continents title and one Cup of China title. 2005 U.S. silver medalists Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov narrowly missed the podium at the 2004 Four Continents, finishing fourth. A medal at this year's event, along with Petukhov's swearing in as U.S. citizen on Feb. 22, will send them into the World Championships with growing momentum. Lydia Manon & Ryan O'Meara head into their first Four Continents after joining up just two years ago. The duo won bronze at the 2005 U.S. Championships after winning gold at the 2004 Nebelhorn Trophy.
Four Continents gets started on Wednesday, Feb. 16, with the compulsory dance, the men's short program and the pairs short program. The ladies first compete in the short on Thursday, Feb. 17. Top competition on the ladies side will come from Japanese skaters Yoshie Onda and two-time Four Continents champion Fumie Suguri. In men's, Canadian Ben Ferreira, and 2001 Four Continents champion Chengjiang Li of China will battle the U.S. skaters for the podium. Three strong Chinese teams have a shot at sweeping the pairs medals: two-time World champions Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, two-time Four Continents champions Qing Pang and Jian Tong, and 2004 Four Continents silver medalists Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang. In dance, the U.S. has a chance to sweep the medals but will have to beat out two-time Japanese champions Nozomi Watanabe and Akiyuki Kido, and the new Canadian team of Martine Patenaude and Pascal Denis.
2005 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships
Gangneung, Korea – Feb. 16-20, 2005
Amber Corwin (Hermosa Beach, Calif.)
Jennifer Kirk (Newton, Mass.)
Beatrisa Liang (Granada Hills, Calif.)
Derrick Delmore (Fort Washington, Md.)
Evan Lysacek (Naperville, Ill.)
Matt Savoie (Peoria, Ill.)
Brooke Castile (Grosse Pt. Woods, Mich.) & Ben Okolski (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Amanda Evora (Sugar Land, Texas) & Mark Ladwig (Fargo, N.D./Moorhead, Minn.)
Katie Orscher (Glastonbury, Conn.) & Garrett Lucash (Granby, Conn.)
Tanith Belbin (Kirkland, Quebec) & Ben Agosto (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.)
Melissa Gregory (Northbrook, Ill.) & Denis Petukhov (Northbrook, Ill.)
Lydia Manon (Newark, Del.) & Ryan O'Meara (Ferndale, Mich.)