[QUOTE=gkelly;631086]I can't speak for Poodlepal, but I don't think it's about the money or the ice time. Rather, skaters in Japan have more media attention and performance opportunities, which may include money as well, so they're more formidable opponents to the US skaters than was the case 20 years ago. (Ito was, and then Sato, but they didn't have more top skaters than the US for another whole skating generation).
Yeah, that's what I meant. If the Japanese skaters are getting more money from endorsements, etc. they have more to spend on training, better costumes, choreography, etc. There would also be more kids wanting to sign up for lessons, because they'd see a lot of skating on tv.
As for the post-Kristi vacuum--it was awful, but it lasted only 1 year. The next year Nancy won the silver medal (and to some, should've won gold) at the Olympics. The post-Nancy vacuum left us with Nicole Bobek winning a bronze, then the Michelle/Sarah/Sasha/Tara/Kimmie golden era. Since Kimmie's downfall, there has not even been as much as a bronze medal in 7 years. That's some vacuum!