By the early 21st century, Japan was developing tremendous depth in men's and ladies' singles skating. Then in 2004, a talented 16 year old made a major splash on the senior circuit.
Fresh off victories on at the Grand Prix Final and World Championships, Miki Ando beat a pair of experienced veterans, Fumie Suguri and Shizuka Arakawa, to take the Japanese national ladies' crown.
Later that season at the World Championships in Dortmund, Ando stunned everyone by placing ahead of the defending champion, Michelle Kwan, in both the qualifying and short program rounds.
Performing with confidence and attack, Ando pushed the technical boundaries Already a prodigious jumper, Ando attempted a quadruple Salchow.
Skating her short program to the "Grande Polonaise Brillante" by Frederic Chopin, Ando's elegant style was perfectly suited to the music. She also included what was then the rare triple Lutz/ triple loop, but it was a jump combination Ando would soon make her trademark.
Prior to Evan Lysacek's victory at the 2009 World Championships, the U.S. had an outstanding international track record in men's singles skating. Eight of their athletes had won World titles, six of them more than once.
However, Scott Hamilton, in 1981, was the last man to take the crown on home turf.
For Lysacek, his biggest victory before striking gold the following year at the Olympic Winter Games almost didn't happen. Lysacek placed only third at the 2009 national championships in Cleveland.
Though he was the defending champion, Lysacek had to withdraw from the 2008 World Championships due to a shoulder injury caused by a broken skate blade.
As past results did not guarantee a spot on the World team, a place in the top three was key.
Second after the short program, Lysacek fell on a quadruple toe loop attempt in the free skate and placed fourth behind Ryan Bradley in that portion of the event.
Two weeks later he placed second to rising star, Canada's Patrick Chan at the Four Continents Championships (the test venue for the Vancouver Games.)
By late March, Lysacek was at his competitive peak. Second to Brian Joubert after the short program, it was now up to how Lysacek performed in the long program that would determine the final outcome.
With a routine designed by Tatiana Tarasova, the legendary Russian choreographer capitalized on Lysacek’s height and long lines to create a program for him that radiated pure class.
Skating to a selection of George Gershwin's biggest hits and dressed to the nines, Lysacek flew through his jam-packed program with elegant ease, winning his first World title.