Press Release

World champs open in Los Angeles on March 24

Record 216 skaters from 52 countries will be on hand for event

Joannie Rochette (left), Yu-Na Kim (middle) and Mao Asada (right) figure to battle for the ladies title at the 2009 World Championships.
Joannie Rochette (left), Yu-Na Kim (middle) and Mao Asada (right) figure to battle for the ladies title at the 2009 World Championships. (Getty Images)

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(03/20/2009) - The 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships will open in Los Angeles on March 24. L.A. will host the world championships for the first time. A new record number of 216 skaters from 52 ISU member countries have been entered for the event. Montenegro is represented for the first time in any ISU Championship, and Brazil and Ireland will participate for the first time at the ISU World Championships.

Overview over the top contenders

Reigning world and Grand Prix Final champion Mao Asada of Japan is back to defend her title, but she will face stiff competition. Asada, who posted her season-high total score of 191.13 points at the NHK Trophy, lost to current world bronze medalist Yu-Na Kim of Korea at the 2009 ISU Four Continents Championships last month. Kim, 18, set her season-high score, 193.45 points, at Skate America. After a successful season so far, with podium finishes in all but one international event she entered, Joannie Rochette of Canada is hoping to earn her first world medal. The two-time and reigning Four Continents silver medalist earned a season-high 188.89 points at Skate Canada. Current world silver medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy is also aiming at a medal in Los Angeles. The two-time European champion comes to worlds with a season's-best score of 170.72 points. 2007 world champion Miki Ando of Japan, who withdrew due to injury during her free skate at the world championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, last year, is back and ready to fight for a top spot again; her season-high tally is 170.88 points. Other contenders include new European champion Laura Lepistö of Finland (season high: 167.32 points), 2008 world junior champion Rachael Flatt of the United States (seasons high: 166.06 points), 2006 world silver medalist Fumie Suguri of Japan (season high: 167.74 points), as well as Cynthia Phaneuf of Canada (season high: 169.41 points) and U.S. champion Alissa Czisny (season high: 159.81 points). Also, 2009 world junior champion Alena Leonova of Russia (season high: 157.18) will make her senior world championships debut.

With the retirement of 2008 world champion Jeffrey Buttle of Canada, there definitely will be a new titlist crowned in Los Angeles. A group of experienced veterans and talented young skaters promises an exciting battle for the championship. 2007 world champion and 2008 world silver medalist Brian Joubert of France wants to return to the top of the podium. He established a season-high total score of 232.01 points in winning gold at the European championships in January. Patrick Chan of Canada leads the non-European challengers. The 18-year-old won his first ISU Championship gold medal in February with a season-high score of 249.19 points at Four Continents. That was also the highest score of any skater all season. Jeremy Abbott of the U.S. is aiming at the podium as well. The U.S. champion has had a breakthrough season and picked up his season-high score of 237.72 points in winning gold at the GP Final in Korea. Two-time world bronze medalist Evan Lysacek of the U.S., runner-up to Chan at the Four Continents championships, would like to add another medal to his collection, especially while competing in his hometown; his season-high is 237.15. Japan's hopes lie on the shoulders of current Four Continents bronze medalist Takahiko Kozuka (season high: 230.78 points) and national champion Nobunari Oda (season high: 236.18 points). 2008 European champion Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic wants to redeem himself after finishing sixth at the European championships in January (season high: 222.94 points). Others to watch include surprise European silver medalist Samuel Contesti of Italy (season high: 220.92 points), European bronze medalist Kevin van der Perren of Belgium (season high: 219.36 points) and Yannick Ponsero of France (season high: 219.30 points).

In the pairs event, reigning world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany will have to fend off strong challenges from longtime rivals. The Germans took their third consecutive European title in January and come to L.A. with a season's-best score of 188.50 points. However, Qing Pang and Jian Tong are on the comeback trail this season after finishing fifth at the 2008 World Championships. The 2006 world champions from China beat Savchenko and Szolkowy at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in December and claimed their fourth Four Continents gold medal in February with a season-high 194.94 points. After a slow start to the season, reigning world bronze medalists Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison of Canada took the silver medal at the Four Continents championships and look ready to challenge the leaders (season high: 185.62 points). Current world silver medalists Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang of China are set to again go after the title that has eluded them so far in their career (season high: 188.22 points). Other contenders include European silver medalists Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov of Russia (season high: 176.97 points), European bronze medalists Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov of Russia (season high: 170.87 points), Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov of Ukraine (season high: 175.83 points) and 2007 world junior champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker of the U.S. (season high: 172.69).

The ice dancing event promises to be a tight and exciting affair. Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski of Russia won their first European title in January by racking up the highest total score of any team this season -- 196.91. Reigning world silver medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada got their season-high score of 191.81 points at the Four Continents championships, where they debuted in international competition this season after Virtue's shin surgery last October. They were beaten at Four Continents by Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States, who claimed the first ISU Championships gold of their career in the process with a season-high 192.39 points. 2008 European champions and Grand Prix Final silver medalists Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia will return to the world championships after missing the event last year due to Shabalin's knee injury. They hope to win their first world medal this year; their season-high score is 186.77 points. Three-time world medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, who withdrew from the Grand Prix Final in December, say that Agosto's back is healthy, and the American couple finally wants to take the gold at worlds. Their season-high is 186.53. Other challengers in Los Angeles include reigning European silver medalists Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy (season high: 186.17 points), European bronze medalists Sinead Kerr and John Kerr of Great Britain (season high: 185.20 points) and Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France (season high: 184.84 points). 2008 world junior champions Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates of the U.S., who took the bronze medal in their debut at the Four Continents championships, where they earned a season-high 180.79 points, will enter their first senior world championships. 2008 world champions Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France have withdrawn from the event, as Delobel is still recovering from January shoulder surgery.

Please note that for the season-high total scores only the ISU Grand Prix competitions (senior and junior) and ISU Championships have been taken into consideration, not other international competitions or national championships.

Prize money and World Standings Bonus

The purse at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships is US$710,000. Skaters or couples placing first to 12th earn part of the pot. The prize money is awarded to winners and placed skaters and couples as follows:

Ladies and Men
1st place -- US$45,000
2nd place -- US$27,000
3rd place -- US$18,000
4th place -- US$13,000
5th place -- US$10,000
6th place -- US$7,000
7th place -- US$6,000
8th place -- US$5,000
9th place -- US$3,500
10th place -- US$3,000
11th place -- US$2,500
12th place -- US$2,000

Pairs and Ice Dancing (Per Couple)
1st place -- US$67,500
2nd place -- US$40,500
3rd place -- US$27,000
4th place -- US$19,500
5th place -- US$15,000
6th place -- US$10,500
7th place -- US$9,000
8th place -- US$7,500
9th place -- US$5,250
10th place -- US$4,500
11th place -- US$3,750
12th place -- US$3,000

By competing in the ISU World Championships, the athletes earn points towards the World Standings as well. The three skaters or couples per discipline that have earned the most World Standings points during the 2008-09 season will be awarded with the World Standings Bonus. The following amounts will be awarded to the concerned skaters or couples:

Ladies and Men
1st place -- US$45,000
2nd place -- US$27,000
3rd place -- US$18,000

Pairs and Ice Dancing (Per Couple)

1st place -- US$67,500
2nd place -- US$40,500
3rd place -- US$27,000

Right now, Verner leads the men's standings with 1824 points, just ahead of Kozuka (1800 points) and Chan (1765 points). Kostner has 2054 points, leading the ladies standings, with Kim (1960 points) and Asada (1880 points) in second and third. Savchenko and Szolkowy have 2138 points, while Pang and Tong are in second with 2040 points. Kawaguchi and Smirnov are third with 1931. Davis and White lead the bonus race for the ice dancers with 1888 points, with Faiella and Scali (1739 points) and the Kerr siblings (1578 points) following in second and third.

2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships schedule:

Tuesday, March 24
• Compulsory Dance
• Pairs Short Program

Wednesday, March 25
• Men's Short Program
• Pairs Free Skate

Thursday, March 26
• Original Dance
• Men's Free Skate

Friday, March 27
• Ladies Short Program
• Free Dance

Saturday, March 28
• Ladies Free Skate

Sunday, March 29
• Exhibition Gala

For more information, full entry lists and results please visit the icenetwork.com event page, www.isu.org or www.isuworlds2009.com.