Most of us love to see the underdog moving to the top of the pile of dogs. The final round of qualifying for the ISU figure-skating world championship finals just came off, and it was great to see Carolina Kostner of Italy make it this far for the first time. She's now 20, which is "old" in a sport so dominated by young teens, and I've watched her struggling gamely among the "also rans" for several years. Italy has a ways to go to be a global threat in this sport. But Kostner has worked hard at her skating, and delivered a really solid performance the other day. As she sat in the kiss-and-cry to hear her score, her expression said everything about how much this achievement meant.
The other five women finalists are Yu-na Kim, Mao Asada, Yukari Nakano and two Americans, Kimmie Meissner and Caroline Zhang. Some notables failed to make the finals, including Emily Hughes of the US and Miki Ando of Japan. Their struggles to qualify said volumes about the tough and demanding nature of this sport, which is as much mental as physical -- where you can be a national champion landing quadruple jumps in practice for a whole week, then go out to compete and fall apart (like Johnny Weir sometimes does).
Incidentally, I always find it amusing that some gay jocks, who don't like being considered "effete" by straight jocks, think that men's and women's figure skating is effete and silly.
-- Patricia Nell Warren