The end of March means the final big figure skating competition of the year. This year’s world will take place in Nice, France starting this Monday with the pairs and dance preliminary rounds. A last minute pull out include Finland’s Kiira Korpi due to lingering foot and hip injuries. Alisa Mikonsaari has been chosen to take her place in the competition. Also not participating is former world men’s champion Evgeni Plushenko, whose injury after winning the Eurpoeans ended any hopes for a comeback.
Here are my picks for this week.
Men – The loss of Plushenko eliminates one obstacle in Patrick Chan’s quest for a second straight championship. The defending champion representing Canada hasn’t lost a step all season, winning every competition he’s participated in this season. Chan’s only competition comes from Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi who won the NHK Trophy in Sapporo and American Jeremy Abbott, who started strong winning Cup of China but struggled in other Grand Prix events.
Skater to watch: Look out for Spain’s Javier Hernandez, who surprised many with his 2nd place finishes at Skate Canada and the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow. Also, look for Michal Březina of the Czech Republic to finish his season strong after struggling this season.
1. Patrick Chan (CAN)
2. Jeremy Abbott (USA)
3. Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)
Ladies – With defending champion Miki Ando of Japan sitting out this season, this division is wide open. The main competition will be between Italy’s Carolina Kostner and Japan’s Akiko Suzuki, with her fellow skater Mao Asada will be right behind. American skater Alissa Czisny almost didn’t make the team after stumbling at the US Nationals. Ashley Wagner will be skating in her first Worlds.
Skaters to watch: The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! Watch for a strong showing by Polina Korobeynikova, Ksenia Makarova and Alena Leonova. Their impressive showing in Grand Prix events have them set up for a 1-2-3 showing at Sochi in 2014.
1. Carolina Kostner (ITA)
2. Akiko Suzuki (JPN)
3. Alena Leonova (RUS)
Pairs – A freak accident caused the defending champions, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, to miss the Europeans this past January. Even though they will participate due to a medical bye, their health will be a question mark. That opens the door for China’s Qing Pang and Jian Tong and Russia’s Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. Both teams have come on strong in Grand Prix competition this season.
Skaters to watch: Russia’s Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov had an outstanding Grand Prix season, winning in Shanghai and Sapporo. Also look for Italian skaters Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek to do well in Nice. They won there earlier this season.
1. Qing Pang and Jian Tong (CHN)
2. Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (GER)
3. Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov (RUS)
Dance – This competition is quickly turning into a fierce rivalry. The team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White have won almost every competition this season, except for Four Continents, where they were defeated by Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Both teams have been strong for the last two season and will be contending for Gold this weekend. The dark horse however is the home country favorites, Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat. They have a chance to squeeze in and win.
Skaters to watch: Three will contend this week. Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani, Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje and Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev. But keep and eye out on Americans Cathy and Chris Reed, who will be skating for Japan.
1. Meryl Davis and Charlie White (USA)
2. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN)
3. Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat (FRA)