Despite problem regarding the spread Coronavirus from nearby China, the Four Continents Championships (4CC) will continue to be held in Seoul, South Korea. Although a number of skaters and teams won’t compete in this competition, most notably, Russian skaters. The competition will feature skaters from the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceania and is a precursor to next month’s World Championships,.
Men: The big story of this competition isn’t who is here, it’s who isn’t. Japanese champ, Shoma Uno has declined the invitation to the 4CC in Korea to work with new coach, Torino 2006 Olympic medallist Stéphane Lambiel and prepare for Worlds next month in Montreal. Teammate and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Yuzuru Hanyu is skating this week, and without American Nathan Chen to compete against, he’s clearly the favorite in this competition and could plan a quadruple axel in his program this week. Hanyu has never won gold in three tries at 4CC, and this is his best chance to do it. He’ll have competition in American Jason Brown, who had his best performance at US Nationals two weeks ago. The fight for the third podium spot will be between Chinese skaters Han Yan and Boyang Jin and Canadians Keegan Messing and Nam Nguyen.
Skaters to Watch: Keep your eye out on Korea’s Junhwan Cha. He finished 6th at last year’s 4CC and had Grand Prix success in 2018. But 2019 wasn’t as kind to him, as his best finish was 6th at Cup of China. American Tomoki Hiwatashi is another, as he was 3rd at US Nationals last month.
Smooth’s Picks: Hanyu will add another gold to his collection, with a fight for 2nd and 3rd.
1. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
2. Jason Brown (USA)
3. Boyang Jin (CHN)
Ladies: For once, we won’t have to hear about a Russian sweep of the podium. But there is a quad queen looking for gold this weekend. Japan’s Rika Kihira won her first national championship and will look to add more hardware to her trophy cabinet. She’s a slight favorite this weekend, but it depends on if she hits one of her quads or triple axels in her programs. She’s been a bit inconsistent, having finished 2nd twice (Skate Canada and NHK) and placing 4th at the Grand Prix final. Her competition comes from American Bradie Tennell, who missed out on re-gaining her US title, finishing 3rd. No quads or triple axels in her programs, but does have the artistry to win over the judges. Japan has two other skaters that could do well this week. Wakaba Higuchi was 2nd at nationals and looks to improve on her 7th place finish at 4CC in 2017. Kaori Sakamoto didn’t have the performance at nationals she wanted, finishing 6th, but has lots of experience, having won the competition in 2018.
Skaters to Watch: Korea has three skaters that have been making inroads in international competition this season. Young You won her third straight national title, and is coming off a gold medal performance at the Winter Youth Olympic Games two weeks ago. Eunsoo Lim was 7th at last year’s 4CC and is coming off a disappointing 7th place finish at nationals. Yelim Kim also has 4CC experience (8th last year) and was 3rd at nationals.
Smooth’s Picks: It’s hit or miss, and if Kihira hits, it’s gold. If she doesn’t, she may find her way off the podium.
1. Rika Kihira (JPN)
2. Bradie Tennell (USA)
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN)
Pairs : Two of the top three pairs teams will skate it out for gold. Both teams come from China. Wenjing Sui & Cong Han have been unbeatable since coming back from injury this season, winning all of their Grand Prix events, including the Final. Their main rivals are Cheng Peng & Yang Jin, who won their third national title in four years. They finished 2nd to Sui & Han twice this season, at Cup of China and in the Grand Prix Final. While those two teams will fight it out at the top of the podium, the rest of the 11-team field will fight it out for the 3rd spot. Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Maranaro have the inside track. They just grabbed their 2nd straight national title and were 2nd at last year’s 4CC. They also finished 5th in their first Grand Prix Final. Americans Alexia and Chris Knierim completed a comeback of their own, winning their 2nd national title and first since 2018.
Teams to Watch: Americans Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson made a big leap in their careers as pairs skaters, going from 5th in 2019 to 2nd at nationals. Unfortunately, they won’t be going to Worlds, so they’ll have a chip on their shoulder this weekend. Their best international finish this season was at the Warsaw Cup in the Challenger Series, winning gold. Canadians Lubov Ilyushechkina and Charlie Bilodeau continue to get better in their first full season, placing 3rd at nationals.
Smooth’s Picks: Sui & Han and Peng & Jin will be the performances to watch this week. Look for a battle between Canadians and Americans for the final spot.
1. Weijing Sui & Cong Han (CHN)
2. Cheng Peng & Yang Jin (CHN)
3. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro (CAN)
Ice Dance: Americans and Canadians will duke it out for podium positions this week, with Madison Chock and Evan Bates at the favorites to win. Their long journey to the top included hardships and injuries of the last two seasons, but it finally came together as they won their first national title since 2015. They look for their 2nd 4CC title, but they’ll have to fight off two top contenders. Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier have been waiting to get into the spotlight for years, and they finally shined by winning their first national championship last month. Their best 4CC finish was 2nd in 2014. Gilles and Poirier have an edge on Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue after beating them at Skate Canada in October. Despite losing to Chock & Bates at this year’s nationals, Hubbell & Donohue’s season has been successful, winning at Skate America and placing 3rd in the Grand Prix Final. Teammates Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker won 4CC in 2018, but since then have taken a step back with a 5th place finish last season. They were 3rd at nationals last month.
Skaters to Watch: A few teams could get a boost going into Worlds. One is China’s Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu, who won their fourth straight national title. Their best finish at 4CC was 5th in 2018. Another is Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha of Canada. They took home gold at last year’s World Juniors and finished 2nd at nationals.
Smooth’s Picks: It will be a battle between the four top teams, but look for Chock & Bates to continue their win streak.
1. Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA)
2. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier (CAN)
3. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (USA)
How did we do the last few weeks?
Junior Grand Prix
Men 0/1 – Japan’s Shun Sato wins, while our pick Andrei Mozalev of Russia finished 2nd.
Ladies 0/1 – Russia’s Kamila Valieva leaps from 4th to 1st, upsetting our pick, American Alysa Liu, who finished 2nd.
Pairs 1/1 – Russia’s Apollinarlia Panfilova and Dmitry Rylov were our correct pick.
Ice Dance 0/1 – Georgia’s Maria Kazakova and Georgy Reviya gets a history win, while our pick, Avonley Nguyen and Vadym Kolesnik (USA) finished 2nd.
Senior Grand Prix
Men 2/3 – Nathan Chen (USA) easily beat Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN), while Kevin Aymoz (FRA) finished an unlikely 3rd.
Ladies 3/3 – CALLED IT 1-2-3 with a Russian sweep!
Pairs 1/3 – Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (CHN) were our only correct winners.
Ice Dance 2/3 – Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) 1st & Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (USA) 3rd were our predicted winners.
Men 0/3 – A surprise showing leads to a new champion.
Ladies 0/3 – A poor showing by established skaters leads to an inexperienced international field for Worlds.
Pairs 1/3 – The defending champs lead the way.
Ice Dance 1/3 – The new champs dominated the field.
Men 0/3 – Shocking turn of events has the favorite not even making the free skate.
Ladies 3/3 – CALLED IT!
Pairs 3/3 – CALLED IT!
Ice Dance 1/3 – Huge upset prevents a 5th title for G&G, Stepanova and Bukin was the only correct pick.
Men 2/3 – Chen completely dominated the field, while Brown put up his best numbers of the season.
Ladies 1/3 – America’s quad queen goes back to back, while Bell upstages Tennell for 2nd.
Pairs 2/3 – The comeback couple wins their 2nd championship, while Kayne and O’Shea fall to our predicted position.
Ice Dance 2/3 – Correct on the top two picks, but our upset special falters to pewter.
Season to Date
Men – 10/31
Ladies – 17/31
Pairs – 12/31
Ice Dance – 18/31