ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The best figure skaters in the country are lacing up in St. Paul where the competition to crown champions in men’s, ladies, pairs and dance is underway.

It’s a sport with a long tradition in Minnesota – and a rich history of figure skating competitors, clubs and promoters.

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Who knows better what that means than a former U.S champion and Olympic gold medalist Tara Lipinski and her colleague, three-time National champion Johnny Weir.

Minnesotans have embraced figure skating since pioneers took to frozen ponds. It’s a rich history that’s reached a much higher level.

“We’ve been in their skates, if you will, and we know what’s on the line and how much pressure it is,” Lipinski said.

The 1998 Olympic Gold Medalist and former U.S. Champion Johnny Weir agree, that few athletes feel the intense level of pressure that figure skaters do.

“It’s all or nothing,” Weir said. “We have six minutes to show judges that we deserve to go further in our career.”

That’s exactly what the singles skaters, pairs and dance teams are striving for over the next few days in St. Paul. All eyes, both in the crowd and on television, will be watching their artistry, athleticism and technical perfection.

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“And to be one of those two or three skaters or teams to make the World or Olympic team, it takes everything you your family and coaches have,” Weir said.

“It’s the emotion,” one mother of a competing pairs skater said.

Sherry and Steve Sidhu are in town from Las Vegas to watch the pairs competition. They are hopeful that their son Zack and his partner, Jessica Calalang, can win it all.

“They work all year and train for the two, 3 to 5 minute programs that culminates a year of training,” Steve Sidhu said.

Tara and Johnny know that arduous routine all too well, but add that the true award in figure skating, lasts far beyond the rink.

“You realize how much you love the sport and how much passion there really is,” Lipinski said. “And when you move on in life, it’s easier to tact to where you want to go and how to approach that.”

For the Senior level ladies skaters, Tara and Johnny say it’s likely going to come down to a battle between Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold. Both skaters have won the national title before and each wants to do so again.

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On the men’s side, they say to watch for Max Aaron, Adam Rippon and the dark horse skater, Nathan Chen to come out at or near the top.