The World converges on Helsinki, Finland; as the top figure skaters look to take an advantage going into next year’s Winter Olympics in Korea. A few skaters will be looking to add more medals to their trophy case while others will attempt to start their own collection.
Two skaters have already withdrawn from this week’s competition due to injury. Japan’s Satoko Miyahara, will miss the world championships due to lingering effects of a hip injury. She was expected to medal this weekend, but her absence puts Japan’s hopes for three slots in Pyeongchang in jeopardy. The other is China’s Han Yan. He’s out of World’s after suffering a shoulder dislocation. He’s struggled to find his 2015 form this season.
Analysis – Spain’s Javier Fernandez will have the toughest competition of his career. He’s coming off another European championship and the two-time World champion looks to make it a “three-peat”, but it won’t be easy. He’ll need flawless programs ensure victory. American Nathan Chen is considered the odds-on favorite based on him becoming the first skater to land five quadruple jumps in one program. His 307.46 points at US Nationals is a season high. Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu has missed competitions for the last three months due to illness, but he plans three quads in his two programs. Teammate Shoma Uno has shown this season that he has the goods, landing four quads in competition, making his a contender for the top spot.
Skaters to Watch – Canada’s Patrick Chan has been in this position before, having won the World championship three times. But maybe it’s best to fly under the radar. Don’t look past him to medal. Also contending is Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten, who is coming off an injury-plagued season, but does have a 2nd place finish under his belt at Trophee de France in Paris. 2016 World bronze medalist Boyang Jin won his 4th straight Chinese nationals title and finished 2nd at Cup of China this season. He plans five quadruple jumps in his Free Skating this week.
Smooth’s Pick – I’ve been wrong twice on Javier the last two seasons. But with Chen on fire, it’s hard not to pick him.
1. Nathan Chen (USA)
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP)
3. Shoma Uno (JPN)
Analysis – Last year, Russian ladies finished in two of the top three spots at Worlds. This year, that task of repeating the feat will be tough, but still very much possible. One thing is certain, defending champion Evgenia Medvedeva is the odds-on favorite to repeat as champion. Her season’s best 229.71 points, puts her way ahead of her nearest competitor. Russia’s Anna Pogorilaya has been very consistent, winning two Grand Prix events and finishing third in the Final. American Ashley Wagner has been a savior for US skating, guaranteeing a third spot at this year’s worlds after taking silver last year. This year marks the return of Italy’s Carolina Kostner. After an 18 month suspension, she’s looking for redemption, and may get it after a top three finish at Europeans.
Skaters to Watch – Canada’s two skaters have had strong showings on the international stage. Kaetlyn Osmond finished 4th at the Grand Prix Final this season, but fell off after a disappointing performance at Four Continents. Gabby Daleman looks to finish the season with a strong finish at worlds. Russia’s Maria Sotskova will skate in her first World Championships after taking third at nationals. The loss of Japan’s Satoko Miyahara gives 2017 Four Continents Champion Mai Mihara a chance on the big stage. Her replacement will be Wakaba Higuchi, who had a strong Grand Prix season this year. Also, keep your eyes on Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva, who has a triple axel in her repertoire.
Smooth’s Pick – This is really Medvedeva’s gold to claim, as no one has come close.
1. Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
2. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA)
Analysis – What was pretty much a lock has turned into a wide open affair with a strong group of contenders. At the top are two-time and reigning World Champions, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada. This season hasn’t been a steady as in year’s past, having finished 3rd at the Grand Prix Final. They’re still the slight favorites this week. Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov have steadily climbed to the top of the pairs division, defeating Duhamel and Radford at the GP Final this season. China’s Wenjing Sui and Cong Han have finished 2nd twice and the World Championships in a row and will look to climb over the top. Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot have been solid all season. However and injury to Savchenko prevented them from participating at German nationals and the GP Final.
Skaters to Watch – France’s Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres performed their best skate this season at Europeans, finishing 3rd. China’s Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang have had surprising success in their 1st year together, winning Cup of China and finishing 2nd at the GP Final. Three teams making a comeback due to injury are Russia’s Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, Canadians Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau & Americans Alexa and Chris Knierim.
Smooth’s Pick – This is a crapshoot. The top 10 teams can take this competition. However, I give the edge to the defending champions, despite their problems.
1. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (CAN)
2. Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (CHN)
3. Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot (GER)
Analysis – This weekend could either see the return of the king and queen of ice dance or the continuation of a dominant team. France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron have dominated Worlds the last two seasons. However, the landscape has changed drastically with the return of Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. They’ve been on a tear since returning from a two year break, winning every competition they’ve entered. Fast on their heels are Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani, who have continued their upward trek in the division, winning twice in GP competitions and finishing 3rd in the final. Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte won the title in 2014, but since then have settled for 3rd or 4th in Grand Prix competition.
Skaters to Watch – There is such a logjam in the ice dance division that any of these teams could find their way to the podium. Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates are 2016 World bronze medalists, . Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev are 2016 European bronze medalists. Canada has two other teams that could make the top 10 in Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier & Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. Other teams looking to make the podium are Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, & Isabella Tobias and Ilia Tkachenko of Israel.
Smooth’s Pick – Since returning, Virtue and Moir have been unstoppable. But they may have met their match this weekend.
1. Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)
2. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN)
3. Maia and Alex Shibutani (USA)