The 2003 World Figure Skating Championships will be held March 24-30 at MCI Center. This is the first time the international event has been held in Washington. The host organizations are the United States Figure Skating Association and the Washington Figure Skating Education and Development Fund. Profits from Worlds will benefit the Fund, a nonprofit organization that supports local skaters and rinks.

More than 200 Olympics-eligible skaters from more than 40 countries will compete in four events: Ladies, Men, Pairs and Dance. The United States will be represented by women Michelle Kwan, Sarah Hughes and Sasha Cohen; men Michael Weiss, Timothy Goebel and Ryan Jahnke; pairs Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn, Katie Orscher and Garrett Lucash, and Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr.; and ice dancers Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev, and Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto.

All competitive events will be held at MCI Center, 601 F St. NW. Tickets -- which run from $20 to $125 -- are still available, though some events are sold out. Contact Ticketmaster at 202-432-7328 or www.ticketmaster.com. For wheelchair accessible seating call 202-661-5065 (TDD: 202-661-5066). For a complete schedule of events, details and updated information, visit www.2003worlds.com or call 202-661-5151. In addition to the competition, many of the medalists will perform on March 30 at 2 p.m. in an "Exhibition of Champions" at MCI Center.

Another way to see the skaters perform is during less-formal practice sessions March 21-29, which will be held both at MCI Center and at the Convention Center, 900 Ninth St. NW. During sessions held as early as 6 a.m. and ending as late as 11:30 p.m., skaters practice their moves and routines in small groups. The athletes are not told which group they are in until the last minute, so patrons who buy tickets in advance won't know which skaters they will see. Still, it is a rare opportunity to watch the world's best skaters run through their programs. Tickets to practice sessions are $12 and are available from Ticketmaster, 202-432-7328 or www.ticketmaster.com.

Other public events relating to Worlds are planned. Check the Web site for details in the coming weeks. If all else fails, WJLA-TV Channel 7 will carry the men's freestyle program on March 27 at 9 p.m. and the women's freestyle program on March 29 at 9 p.m. ESPN2 is airing some of the events as well. Check local listings.

THE SHOW MUST GO ON

There are many opportunities throughout the year to see good skating in the Washington area, including the ever-popular touring ice shows. Disney on Ice makes two annual trips to MCI Center. The next show is "Disney on Ice Presents Walt Disney's 100 Years of Magic," Feb. 12-16. Tickets are $13 to $42; call 202-432-7328 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. Additional information is at www.disneyonice.com. In conjunction with the show, Disney on Ice is sponsoring skating clinics at local ice rinks. For information call 410-243-3790. Another touring show, "Chevy Champions on Ice," is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The production is coming to MCI Center on May 4 at 3 p.m. Tickets, $30 to $65, are available from Ticketmaster, 202-432-7328 or www.ticketmaster.com, or through MCI's box office 202-628-3200, Ext. 6650. For further information, visit www.championsonice.com. Fans of the Smucker's Stars on Ice show will have to wait until later this year. The show, which makes an annual stop in Washington, was here last month. Check the Web site, www.starsonice.com, for the 2003 tour schedule. From time to time, the Kennedy Center hosts artistic skating shows such as the John Curry Skating Company, the St. Petersburg State Ice Ballet and the Baltimore-based the Next Ice Age. Check the Kennedy Center Web site, www.kennedy-center.com, for future events.

The most affordable way to see good skating, though, is at local rinks, where you may catch sight of Michael Weiss, Derrick Delmore and the stars of tomorrow. Call area rinks to find out when the elite skaters practice or to inquire about special shows featuring local talent.

-- Janice Kaplan