The individual season comes to a close, as the world converges on Boston, where the best of the best will skate for supremacy this weekend. This will be the first time for the city to host a World Championship, which has been home to many skating champions, including 1994 Olympic silver medallist, Nancy Kerrigan. In all, 24 of the top individual skaters in each category (men & ladies), 16 pairs teams and 20 ice dance teams will be competing this weekend.
Analysis: This has been the year of Yuzuru Hanyu. The Japanese firebird has lit up the ice world on record pace, first at NHK Trophy becoming the first skater to reach 300 points (322.40), then going further, in the grand prix final with a record 330.43. Current world champion Javier Fernandez knows he’ll need the best marks of his career if he wants to keep the title in Spain. He’s had a flawless season up to now, having only a second place finish at the grand Prix final as his blemish. The return of Canadian Patrick Chan puts the competition on firm ground. He’s returned in grand fashion, winning Skate Canada, Four Continents and taking his 8th national title. Other contenders are Japan’s Shoma Uno, who has lifted his game with a 3rd place Grand Prix Final and China’s Boyang Jin, whose two 2nd place finishes at Cup of China and NHK Trophy puts him in contention. If he hits his quadruple Lutz-triple toeloop combination this weekend, he will make the podium.
Skaters to Watch: Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten has had a disappointing season. Expected to contend, he stumbled out of the gate, finishing 9th at Skate America missed out on the Grand Prix final. He’s still considered a solid contender this weekend. China’s Han Yan was a 3rd place finisher at Four Continents last month. The USA’s Max Aaron and Adam Rippon are two skaters looking to take advantage of home ice.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
- Javier Fernandez (ESP)
- Boyang Jin (CHN)
Analysis: Could it be the beginning of a possible Russian sweep? The ladies have dominated all season long. What makes it even more amazing is that, quite possibly, their best skaters isn’t even in Boston this weekend. Evgenia Medvedeva has been flawless, only losing at Rostelecom Cup to teammate, Elena Radionova, who also had a strong season. Anna Pogorilaya could be considered the weakest of the Russian ladies, be she had a strong 3rd place finish at Europeans. The only skaters with a program strong enough to break the juggernaut are from Japan and the United States. Satoko Miyahara is currently ranked #1 by the ISU and has strong victories at NHK Trophy and Four Continents. Rika Hongo and three-time world champion Mao Asada round out the other two skaters who could challenge for the podium. Of the Americans, their best hope is three-time US champ Ashley Wagner and current US Champion Gracie Gold.
Skaters to Watch: The loss of American Polina Edmunds gives Mirai Nagasu a chance to prove her doubters wrong (me included). What was supposed to be a last hurrah has turned into a chance for redemption, having placed 3rd at Four Continents last month. She has plenty of international experience, so she is a dark horse this weekend. Look also for a big weekend from Canadians Alaine Chartrand and Gabby Daleman, who both had strong programs at Nationals.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
- Satoko Miyahara (JPN)
- Elena Radionova (RUS)
Analysis: Current world champions Megan Duhamel and Eric Radford had a bit of a stumble this season, losing the Grand Prix Final and withdrawing from Four Continents. But the Canadians are expected to finish strong this weekend. Their main rivals, Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov of Russia are back to regain the title they lost last year due to injury. They’re considered a slight favorites over their teammates, Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov, who won the Grand Prix Final. China has three teams ready to compete, two of which are ready for the podium. Wenjing Sui & Cong Han won Four Continents Championships, while Xiaoyu Yu & Yang Jin had a strong Grand Prix season, qualifying for the final, where they finished in fifth.
Skaters to Watch: Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot will be competing at Worlds with the goal of making the podium. This being their first year together, they don’t skate like it, winning German Nationals and silver at Europeans. Americans Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim recovered from a disappointing 2nd place finish at nationals to take silver at Four Continents. European bronze medalists Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov of Russia and ISU Grand Prix Finalists Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang of China round out possible contenders.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov (RUS)
- Megan Duhamel and Eric Radford (CAN)
- Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov (RUS)
Analysis: The table is stacked filled with teams that can make the podium. Reigning world champions Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron of France had limited duty this season due to injuiry. But they look good at Europeans, winning their second straight and putting them into contention. Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje had a good stretch, going undefeated until Four Continents, where they were surprised by Americans Maia & Alex Shibutani. The brother/sister team have been on a trajectory and may be the team to beat this weekend. Their teammates, Madison Chock & Evan Bates are still very formidable and could make a comeback. The same is said for Italians Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte, who have tasted victory before.
Skaters to Watch: The division is still reeling from the suspension of Ice Dancer Ekaterina Bobrova. The loss of Bobrova and her partner, Dimitri Soloviev puts Russia at a disadvantage. They were replaced by Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin, who finished 3rd at Europeans. Teammates Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov finished 4th at Europeans. Americans Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue had a strong Graind Prix season, qualifying for their first Grand Prix final this season.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)
- Maia & Alex Shibutani (USA)
- Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (CAN)