A high-profile skating delegation is headed to Spokane this week and is expected to announce that the Lilac City will again host a major figure skating event: the first-ever Team Challenge Cup.
The delegation from U.S. Figure Skating is coming Wednesday and will include 1992 Olympic champion Kristi Yamaguchi, 2014 U.S. champion and Olympian Gracie Gold and several other skating officials.
“To have this delegation coming in is about as good an indication as you could possibly get, that it’s a go,” said Barb Beddor, vice president of Star USA, which has successfully promoted other skating events. “I can’t imagine them sending them here and not having good news.”
The Team Challenge Cup will include 42 of the best figure skaters in the world on three teams. The teams will combine skaters from the U.S. and Canada versus a team from Asia and another from Europe.
The competition would be held April 22-24 at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
While the competition won’t produce a world champion or qualify athletes for the Olympics, organizer Toby Steward said the first-ever competition is expected to be the start of an event that is similar to the Ryder Cup for golf.
“One reason we are so excited is because, for us, it’s like hosting Super Bowl 1,” Steward said. “When we get gray and old, we think this event will still be going strong and Spokane hosted the first one. This is a phenomenal opportunity to host this.”
Spokane first hosted a major skating event with the 2002 Skate America, which broke that event’s attendance record.
U.S. Figure Skating then selected Spokane for the 2007 and 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and both events again broke attendance records. The 158,700 attendance record from the 2010 event continues to stand, Steward said.
“We don’t take anything for granted until we have the signature on the agreement,” he said. “But we are thrilled and excited. We are obviously planning this to be our fourth out of five on our bids.”
The 2014 Olympics first introduced the team skating competition. Steward said the closest example would be team gymnastics, where teams are scored based on the ability of individual performances.
The 2007 and 2010 events in Spokane featured the best skaters in the country.
“But these are the best 42 skaters in the world,” Steward said. “You are going to see some really fast-paced, exciting competition.”
The delegation is due to arrive in Spokane on Wednesday. A news conference has been scheduled for 11:45 a.m. at the Spokane Convention Center.
The expected announcement would be a break from past site awards. Both Beddor and Steward said they typically they would gather about 300 people in a room and take a phone call that delivered the news.
In 2009, they learned they lost a bid for the skating championships to Los Angeles.
“That would be one of the worst jokes in history: Fly the legend Kristi Yamaguchi in to tell us ‘No,’” Steward said. “There is no bronze or silver medal in this thing. Either you win, or you don’t.”
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