Evora boosted by world pull-outs

By Mark Meadows

TURIN (Reuters) - American pairs skater Amanda Evora has broken ranks at the world figure skating championships by saying she is pleased by the lengthy list of absentees.

Chinese pair Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo retired after winning gold at the Vancouver Olympics last month and are among a number of top names missing, leading media to lambast organizers for holding the worlds so soon after the Winter Games.

But rather than worrying about a potential lack of media exposure for this week's competition in Turin, Evora sees a big chance to improve on her 10th place finish in Vancouver with partner Mark Ladwig and perhaps snatch a medal.

"It kind of takes the pressure off. We are lucky that we won't compete against them but we are still against some of the best in the world," Evora told Reuters on Monday at the side of the rink as rock music blared out during practice.

"I'm still very nervous but it's exciting at the same time. It's an opportunity to do well."

Men's Olympic champion Evan Lysacek of the United States decided not to come to Turin and aches and pains have accounted for Vancouver silver medalist Yevgeny Plushenko.

The championships, held at Turin's Palavela rink which hosted the skating at the 2006 Winter Games, finish with the women's free skating on Saturday.

Vancouver is now just a memory but the signage and memorabilia still remaining at the Palavela from the 2006 Games, where Evora did not compete, is a reminder of previous Olympic greatness.

"I always wanted to go to Turin '06 so to be able to go to two Olympic cities in one year is more than I could ever ask," Evora, 25, added.

"The Olympics is huge and everything is large scale. The attention on it is huge. But I find world championships very important because you are again competing for your country."

(Editing by Justin Palmer)