Rocket Rochette flies under radar

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- It's kinda like what happened with Liz Manley at the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games, right Joannie Rochette?

"I was too young then. I don't remember that. I was two," she said.

Remember the "Battle of the Carmens" between Katarina Witt and Debi Thomas which Manley spoiled by winning silver?

Here it's been all Yu-Na Kim - or Kim Yu-Na as she's known back home in Korea - and Mao Asada of Japan, heading into today's women's short program.

It's like the second game of a double-header here for Korean and Japanese media after the two nations ended up in the final of the World Baseball Classic Monday in Dodger Stadium.

There hasn't been much talk about Canada's Rocket Rochette.

MASSIVE STARS IN ASIA

The Korean and Japanese skaters, who are massive stars in Asia, are not skating to the same Carmen music as Witt and Thomas. But, as had been the case with Brian Joubert of France and Patrick Chan of Canada all week in the men's event, it's like no one else was entered. This, despite the fact Rochette has been able to beat Asada twice this season.

"I think it's good for me," said Rochette, who spent the morning here yesterday looking around Los Angeles with her parents.

"I think it's good for them to have all the attention with their rivalry."

A five-time Canadian champion from Ile Dupas, Que., Rochette was the silver medal winner at the recent Four Continents Vancouver 2010 test event. She'd been second at the event in 2008 and third in 2007. Fifth at the Torino 2006 Olympics, she finished 17th, 8th, 11th, 7th, 10th and 6th in her first six World Figure Skating Championships.

The 23-year-old has seemingly positioned herself to be the first Canadian to capture a women's world medal in 21 years - and, yes, the last one was Manley.

Rochette beat Asada, the defending world champion, at the Grand Prix event in France, beat her in the short program and beat Kim - who won bronze at the last two Worlds - in the long to win silver at the recent Four Continents pre-Olympic event.

Prior to the beginning of competition here, Rochette told Sun Media how great it was to be going into this event as a somebody.

"I just so bad want to make it to the podium at these Worlds. I want to make it happen. This is the seventh time I'm going to Worlds, but the first year I'm going believing I belong there with the top skaters. It feels different."

But has it been so different?

"Oh, definitely. I know I have everything to compete, that I'm one of the few girls here who can do everything. The practices are going well and I feel good out there."

Canadian content is also very much in play in the women's event with former world champion Brian Orser coaching Kim.

ORSER LANGUAGE

At Four Continents, Orser was as much a show as his skater as he was put on a split screen on the host broadcaster TV feed. There, he was coming out of his shoes with body language as he virtually skated her whole program with her from behind the boards.

In the same year he's being inducted into the Figure Skating Hall of Fame here, Orser is very much as big a story as the current Canadian skaters.

He's actually kind of pinching himself it's come to be.

"It has been a great year. The Hall of Fame is awesome. My coaching career is taking off. If you told me 20 years ago I'd be coaching, I'd have said 'Not on your life.' "

And he's coaching a potential Olympic champion from Korea out of Toronto.

Orser, of course, lost the legendary Battle of the Brians at the Calgary Olympics and has been fielding questions all week about having a chance to go back to an Olympics, in a similar showdown with a Kim-Asada matchup and do as a coach what he didn't get done as a skater.

"It would be incredible," he said. "I feel very confident I can produce an Olympic champion. And would it make up for Calgary? Yes, it would."

But what if the Canadian sneaks in there and makes it something more than Kim versus Asada heading to Vancouver?

The women's short program goes today.


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