Reuters - Tue, 23 Mar 07:54:00 2010
Italian ice dancer Massimo Scali is promising lots more excitement for winter sports fans who thought the fun was over after last month's Vancouver Olympics.
The world figure skating championships are taking place in Turin this week and although many pundits have questioned the wisdom of holding the event so soon after Vancouver, Scali is ready to shake and shimmy his way to a medal and give spectators a real thrill.
"I think most of the people here watching the world championships will have been watching the Olympic Games and will want to see live the skaters they saw on TV a month ago," Scali told Reuters at Turin's Palavela rink, which hosted the skating at the 2006 Games.
"I think that for Turin and Italy it's always very exciting to have figure skating here."
Scali, fifth in Vancouver with dance partner Federica Faiella, is confident the pair can wow their home crowd by grabbing a medal after Friday's final free dance session.
"It's a great opportunity for us. Vancouver was an amazing experience, we were in the top five and we finally had the feeling that we were part of the top group," he beamed excitedly.
"In our own country we know we can do really well and we have to fight and give everything to win a medal. I think the chances are pretty high of a medal.
"In the European championships we were second and won two of the events. We should be on the podium, we've just got to give our best and skate like we did in the rest of the season, enjoy every moment on the ice, enjoy the audience and the programmes that we have and I think we will be fine."
Italian pride is very much at stake in Turin given a poor showing in Vancouver, where big hope Carolina Kostner could only finish 16th overall in the women's competition and Europe failed to win a figure skating title for the first time in 50 years.
The European women's champion fell four times during her Olympic long programme and will need to bounce back quickly in Turin with the Sochi 2014 Games on the horizon.
Scali and Faiella will at least liven up proceedings with their especially colourful outfits and the fact that Faiella occasionally breaks the figure skating mould by lifting her male partner, rather than the other way round.
The 100th edition of the worlds has a long list of absentees, who are either too injured to compete after Vancouver or lack the motivation.
Chinese pair Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo came out of retirement to win gold at the Olympics last month but never considered extending their comeback to Turin despite the championships coming around so quickly.
Men's Olympic champion Evan Lysacek of the United States decided not to come to Turin while Russian Yevgeny Plushenko, beaten into second in Vancouver, had been due to compete but pulled out at short notice, citing a knee problem.
The top dance skaters will mostly compete this week with Vancouver winners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada and silver medallists Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States set to appear.
Their presence, and the sight of Neve and Gliz, the snowball and ice-cube mascots from the 2006 Turin Games who are still plastered around the walls of the Palavela, have certainly enthused Scali.
"I think it's an exciting thing for the audience. Pretty much everyone is here for the dance event, the good teams are here," he said, before admitting he will be glad to rest once the season is finally over.
"It will be very, very exciting for the fans to see us keep going and keep fighting even if we are exhausted and battling for another medal."
Figure Skating World Championships:
Compulsory Dance - Tuesday 11am LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Pairs Short Programme - Tuesday 6.10pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Men's Short Programme - Wednesday 1pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Pairs Free Programme - Wednesday 5.30pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Original Dance - Thursday 11.45am & 2.45pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Men's Free Skate - Thursday 8pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Ladies Short Programme - Friday 12.30pm & 2.45pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Free Dance - Friday 8pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Ladies Free Skate - Saturday 6pm on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Exhibition - Sunday 6.15pm on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player