MILAN Figure skating has become so difficult that the sport is struggling to create household names ahead of February's Vancouver Olympics, International Skating Union President Ottavio Cinquanta said on Wednesday.
Since the 1980s when the likes of American Brian Boitano and Britain's Torvill and Dean wowed the world with a string of stunning performances at Winter Olympics, figure skating has battled for renewed media attention.
Few household names have appeared in recent times but Cinquanta believes the technical aspects of the sport should be appreciated as much as the performers.
"The standard of skating is increasing and it will be difficult to have stars, because there are big names who perform the double axel only. Now, if you don't do a triple axel you are number 30 in the world championships," he told Reuters.
"It's the standard that's very high and to excel is not easy. In athletics when you have Usain Bolt running the 100 metres at that level, those running 10 seconds flat are not good but it's not that they are no good, it's him who is too strong."
Carolina Kostner, from Cinquanta's native Italy, is the world's top-ranked female ice dancer but has struggled to catch the public's imagination at home.
The world championships in Turin, which hosted the last Winter Games in 2006, would have offered her the perfect chance to impress home fans but critics say the March event will lose attention coming only a month after Vancouver.
Cinquanta defended the decision to hosts the worlds so close to the Olympics.
"It's the 100-year anniversary of the world championships, there are not so many championships that celebrate 100 years," he said.
"The idea that it is stupid is an opinion but the 100 year celebration is not an opinion, it is 100 years."
Hosting the worlds before Vancouver as warm-up event could have been an option, but Cinquanta is happy with the March 22-28 dates.
"There was a decision which had to be taken over whether to celebrate the 100 anniversary in Italy and I decided yes as this was exactly a year before the 150th anniversary of the Italian nation. There is a reason."
(Editing by Miles Evans; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)