Approximately one year from now, the world will converge on Pyeongchang, Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Figure skating will be the main draw for the Olympics, as the events will take place in the morning, Korea time. However, the ice skating world with take a “test drive” of the new facilities this weekend, as more than 100 skaters will compete in this international event.
Analysis: This weekend’s event is looking like a preview of Worlds, with four of the top skaters taking part. 9-time Canadian champion and three time 4CC defending champion, Patrick Chan has a tough task if he intends to get a fourth. Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, who had to withdraw from nationals with a bout of the flu in December, but will compete this weekend and at Worlds in March. 2017 Japanese champion Shoma Uno takes his quadruple flip into competition this weekend and is an instant contender for the podium. American Nathan Chen wowed the crowd with 5 quads in his free skate last month and could surprise the judges with a clean program.
Skaters to Watch: China’s Boyang Jin came up short in Grand Prix competition this season, but could be in the top 5 this weekend. Teammate Han Yan tries to improve on his performance after a lackluster GP season. Japan’s Keiji Tanaka will try to add on his 2017 Universiade silver medal from two weeks ago. American Jason Brown continues to improve after an injury plagued 2016 and a third place finish at 2017 US Nationals.
1. Nathan Chen (USA)
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
3. Shoma Uno (JPN)
Analysis: Defending champion Sakoto Miyahara pulled out of this weekend’s competition due to injury. That leaves the field wide open, with plenty of skaters ready. Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond has been on a roll the last two international competitions. She regained her Canadian title for the third time and is the favorite to medal this weekend. American Mirai Nagasu finished second last year and will look to the top of the podium after a strong 4th place finish at US Nationals. Japan’s Wakaba Higuchi had an excellent Grand Prix season, just missing the Final on points. Canadian Gabrielle Daleman looks to improve on her 7th place finish from last year.
Skaters to Watch: Japan’s Rika Hongo takes over for the injured Miyahara and will look to medal for the 3rd straight year. Teammate Mai Mihara made waves with a couple of surprise podiums, most notably at Skate America in the fall (3rd). China’s Zijun Li, American Mariah Bell and Canadian Alain Chartrand also look to make the podium, as well.
1. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN)
2. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN)
3. Mai Mihara (JPN)
Analysis: Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford continue their quest to be three time World champions with a tune up this weekend. The team looked sharp at last month’s Canadian nationals. China’s Wenjing Sui and Cong Han will compete in their first event this season, Wenjing recovered from foot surgery. Teammates Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang along with Cheng Peng and Yang Jin look to possibly get a sweep of the podium, although the strength of Duhamel and Radford makes that highly unlikely to happen.
Skaters to Watch: Americans Alexa and Chris Knierim skate in their first competition of the year after surgery by Alexa knocked them out of Grand Prix and US Nationals. They finished 2nd last season. Teammates Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier along with Ashley Cain and Timothy Leduc lead a strong pairs field. Canadians Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch as well as Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro took to gain valuable international experience.
1. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (CAN)
2. Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang (CHN)
3. Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (CHN)
Analysis: Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir continue they comeback trail with a win in the Grand Prix Final, their 7th Canadian national title and a chance to take on the top two teams in the world this weekend. Their challenge will come from reigning Four Continents Champions Maia and Alex Shibutani. Both have steadily improved over the last two seasons and have resulted in two straight US titles and a 2nd place finish at last year’s Worlds. Teammates Madison Chock and Evan Bates seemed to have lost their edge with a 6th place finish at the Grand Prix final, but a 2nd place finish at US Nationals puts them right back in the hunt for a medal. Like Chock and Bates, Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje have taken a step back due to the return of Virtue and Moir. But as two-time Four Continents Champions, they’re a strong candidate to medal this weekend.
Skaters to Watch: Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue tasted victory once before at Four Continents in 2014. They continue to with a 2nd straight Grand Prix Final appearance (5th) and a 3rd place finish at US Nationals. Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier placed second at 4CC in 2014, but have dropped off in the last two years. Other challengers include Japan’s Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed, along with Emi Hirai and Marien De La Asuncion.
1. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN)
2. Maia and Alex Shibutani (USA)
3. Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA)