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Event Preview: Four Continents Championships

  • Event Preview: Four Continents Championships

    Gracie Gold of the US performs during the women's free skating at the Japan Open figure skating event in Saitama, suburb of Tokyo, on October 3, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Toru YAMANAKA (Photo credit should read TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Four Continents Figure Skating Championships were created seventeen years ago, when the ISU decided to award prize money and ranking points to skaters at the European Championships. Non-European skaters protested that this was unfair, and so the Four Continents Championships were born.

This year, they will take place in Taipei, Taiwan, from February 16-21. As the final stop on the international calendar before Worlds, many skaters view this as a chance to build momentum. Unfortunately, some skaters disrespect the competition by choosing instead to skip it in favour of preparing for Worlds, but there will always be a tough competition at Four Continents.

As a Championship event, the cut after the short program would normally be in place. However, this year none of the divisions have more than twenty-four entries (the men just squeak in at twenty-four), so a cut will not be necessary in any division.

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MEN

With the late withdrawal of defending champion Denis Ten, the silver medallist Joshua Farris missing the season, and the bronze medallist Han Yan out of form, there will almost certainly be an entirely new podium at Four Continents in the men’s event.

The early favourite is certainly Patrick Chan, with the Canadian always pulling in big scores no matter how well he skates. And with Hanyu and Fernandez both topping 300 internationally this season, the pressure will be on Chan to do so as well to stay relevant to the discussion of the Worlds battle.

Max Aaron is likely to be fired up after being controversially pipped at the post at US Nationals, and the absence of Adam Rippon from this event gives him a clear run at regaining his momentum. The international judges have shown so far this season that they are keen to reward the hard work he’s put in on his second mark if he skates clean, and a medal here would make him the undisputed number one man ahead of Boston.

In the absence of Yuzuru Hanyu, Shoma Uno will be the number one Japanese man here. Last year the pressure of such proved to be too much for him, but after an improved season this year it is likely to no longer be the case. He has been skating well all season and his scores have been improving, and if any of the other men stumble he will be there to take over.

Predictions: Chan, Aaron, Uno

LADIES

Gracie Gold will be on a high at this point in the season after delivering an incredible performance at US Nationals to take her second title. With her closest rivals Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds absent from this event, there will be little pressure on her from her compatriots, and this could prove to be the moment she needs to get her feet underneath her and prove that she has what it takes to be a contender for the World podium in Boston.

Satoko Miyahara, however, is in ominous form, beating her more-fancied compatriot Mao Asada at both the NHK Trophy and Japanese Nationals, and with Asada skipping this competition, she is without question the lead Japanese lady. Though Miyahara’s technique is dubious, she presents well, and a good result here would see her positioned well ahead of Asada going into Worlds.

Her compatriot Rika Hongo has had a mixed season, taking silver with a breakout performance at Cup of China but then struggling in a packed field at Rostelecom Cup. Nevertheless she skated well at Japanese Nationals, and will be looking for a strong result here to boost her confidence and standing within the Japanese ladies hierarchy.

Predictions: Gold, Miyahara, Hongo

PAIRS

There can be no doubt that the undisputed favourites for this event are Canada’s Megan Duhamel and Eric Radford. The pair were dominant on the Grand Prix this season and their only stumble was a second place at the Grand Prix Final to Russian pair Stolbova and Klimov. The Russians, however, are not part of Four Continents, leaving the way clear for Duhamel and Radford to establish some momentum before Worlds.

China’s Wenjing Sui and Cong Han had a superb Grand Prix season, winning one of their events and taking silver at the other, before they were forced to withdraw from the Grand Prix Final due to injury. Nevertheless, they are a strong, technically sound pair and will unquestionably be in the mix. Their compatriots Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin have also had a good season so far, earning medals at both Grand Prix events and replacing Sui and Han at the Grand Prix Final, where they finished fifth.

The battle between the American pairs for dominance will be taken up another notch here after Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea sprung a surprise victory at US Nationals. In good form already and with that confidence booster, they will certainly be in the mix here. Runners-up Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, however, will be smarting after losing their National title and undoubtedly keen to restore order.

Predictions: Duhamel/Radford, Sui/Han, Kayne/O’Shea

DANCE

A powerful shift in momentum took place at US Nationals a few weeks ago, a shift in momentum that could well change the course of the Ice Dance narrative heading into the final part of the season. Alex and Maia Shibutani took out the gold there ahead of Madison Chock and Evan Bates, and this shift in power in the eyes of the judges could translate to international results. The Shibutanis are skating very well at the moment and could well take home the victory here. Chock and Bates, however, will undoubtedly be keen to re-establish their position as the number one US team, and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue have also been in good form and could very well upset one or both of their compatriots.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje have, however, been in formidable form this season and will be looking to continue this with just one last stop on their competitive circuit before the World Championships. The Candian couple have swept all before them this season, winning both their Grand Prix events and the Grand Prix Final, and unlike their American counterparts do not have the distraction of a fight for national supremacy. Weaver and Poje are unquestionably the favourites for this event.

Predictions: Shibutani/Shibutani, Weaver/Poje, Chock/Bates

SCHEDULE

All times AEDT. SBS will show highlights packages from this event at 1400 (2pm) on 27/2 and 5/3.

Men

Short program: Friday February 19 - 8:55pm - 12:45am (Saturday)

Long program: Sunday February 21 - 3:00pm - 7:00pm

Ladies

Short program: Thursday February 18 - 7:40pm - 10:50pm

Long program: Saturday February 20 - 9:15pm - 12:55am (Sunday)

Pairs

Short program: Thursday February 18 - 11:30pm - 1:15am (Friday)

Long program: Saturday February 20 - 5:30pm - 7:30pm

Dance

Short dance: Thursday February 18 - 3:45pm - 6:15pm

Free dance: Friday February 19 - 4:30pm - 7:15pm


Gala: Sunday February 21 - 9:00pm - 11:00pm

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