Six things to watch for in women's figure skating

The women take the ice Tuesday night. From left, Canada's Joannie Rochette, Japan's Mao Asada, South Korea's Yu-Na Kim, and American Rachael Flatt

As the women's short program begins in figure skating, here are the questions to ask.

1. How will Joannie Rochette skate? This young lady from Canada has the skating bona fides to get attention – she won silver in the 2009 World Championships – but she has a heavy burden on her shoulders. Her mother passed away suddenly Sunday morning, and Rochette is going for gold Tuesday night. No matter how she skates, she will have the support of all those watching.

2. How will the young Americans fare? Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu are both 16, inexperienced, and unlikely to medal at these Olympics. But wait! They are also both fun to watch, aggressive in adding difficulty to their routines, and the future of American figure skating. They will win medals in Sochi, so you may as well get to know them now.

3. Will Mao Asada complete her triple axel? The Japanese star is one of the few women to complete a triple axel in competition. In fact, she did it at the Four Continents Championship just weeks before the Olympics. But the pressure of the Olympics can get to anyone. Will Asada pull it off?

4. Will Yu-Na Kim be able to handle South Korea's pressure? To say that Kim has high expectations placed on her is like saying the Canadians kind of like hockey. She is wildly popular in her country and is expected to win gold. As the reigning world and Grand Prix champion, it's a definite possibility.

5. Can a skater from a non-Asian country make the podium? With Kim from South Korea and the daunting Japanese trio of Mao Asada, Miki Ando, and Akiko Suzuki, it will be tough for a North American or European to break through. Tough, but not impossible. Canadian Rochette won silver at last year's world championships. Finnish skater Laura Lepisto is also capable of turning in strong performances. And this is probably the last chance for Hungarian skater Julia Sebestyen.

6. Will Americans tune in? This is the question that haunts NBC. Without an American front-runner, the conventional wisdom is that Americans won't watch. However, there wasn't a great American team in the pairs competition and that did well in the ratings, so NBC should have faith in the American public. They can appreciate good skating, no matter where it comes from.

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