For the first time since 1991, the Twin Cities is playing host to the U.S Figure Skating Championships. The all-important step to the Olympics will have the nation's best figure skaters salchowing and axel-jumping all over the Xcel's ice. Historically, this event is the jumping-off point for the nation's elite skaters. Michelle Kwan, the U.S.'s routine Olympic gold medal hopeful throughout the '90s, won the U.S. title nine times and captured the silver in Nagano Olympics in '98, and the bronze in 2002's Salt Lake City games. Other former champs include Sasha Cohen, who, after triumphing over the American competition in 2006, surprised pretty much everybody by winning silver in the Turin games later that year. Of course, winning at nationals isn't always the first step on the road to fame and glory. It can lead to strange criminal charges. Tonya Harding won the 1994 title before being stripped of it and her dignity for her involvement in the Nancy Kerrigan beat-down scandal during the 1994 Olympics. This year's headline names, and presumably the next Olympians (or infamous sports villains), include last year's senior men and ladies champions Evan Lysacek and Kimberly Meissner, and three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir. Looking to defend his junior national title will be 17-year-old St. Paul skater Eliot Halverson, one of nine locally trained skaters competing. For a complete schedule call 651.265.4800 or go to www.xcelengergycenter.com.
Jan. 20-27, 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m., 2008