Saturday, April 16, 2011

2011 World Figure Skating Championships: Mens Preview

Because of the preliminary round, the men are actually the first to take the ice in this year's World Figure Skating Championships in Moscow, Russia. Preliminaries begin Monday April 25th at 6:00am EST with the short program on Wednesday April 27th at 5:30am and the free skate Thursday April 28th at 5:00am. This is a tough event to call because a lot of the men who put up the big scores have also been volatile and self-destructive this season. The quad(s) will play a big role in this competition and give a huge advantage to the men who land them. Many questions will be answered when this event concludes, not limited to the following.... Can the Japanese men sweep the podium? Will Patrick Chan finally live up to his potential? Is Brian Joubert still relevant? Did the US make the right decision in sending men with limited international experience? Can Artur Gachinski live up to the hype as "the next Plushenko"?
The Contenders
Patrick Chan of Canada is a sentimental favorite for me because he has so much talent but rarely skates to his full potential. My heart goes out to him every time he falls because I know that he has it in him to win each time he steps onto the ice. His free program at Canadian Nationals was out of this world and if he performs that way in Moscow, he'll take the gold easily. Nobody tells a story through their programs like Patrick does, and being a person of the theatre, the storytelling is the most important part of the program for me. I would never put money on Patrick because he is still not know for his consistency, but something tells me this is his year. The world title is there and its his if he just has the courage to seize it.
One of the people who can stop Chan from realizing his golden potential is someone who has done it before, reigning  world champion Daisuke Takahashi of Japan. Daisuke started off the season with a solid win at NHK and followed up with another win at Skate America, though in a rather messy fashion. Japanese nationals was a splat-fest for all of the top men, but Daisuke finally pulled it together again with an impressive win at Four Continents. If he can get his quad under control he will be a real threat for gold. Patrick and Daisuke are both phenomenal performers, but if Patrick lands both quads, he'll have the technical edge. There is talk of Takahashi retiring after this season so I'd like to see him go out with another world medal.
Takahiko Kozuka, the youngest of the top Japanese men has arguably been the most consistent of the bunch this season. With two Grand Prix wins, he was the top qualifier for the Final and took home a bronze. If he can improve on his confidence and performance skills he'll be able to fill the shoes of Takahashi when he retires. Kozuka has a good shot at the podium of he goes clean in both programs which he did twice this season on the Grand Prix and can certainly do again.
Nobunari Oda is probably the most volatile of the Japanese men. He has some of the biggest jumps in the world, especially for a smaller guy, but when he is not "on" he programs can get really rough really fast. He is primarily a technical skater so when the jumps aren't happening, he can't rely on high components scores like Chan or Takahashi. Nobu had such a bad short program last year at worlds that he failed to qualify for the free skate and he has been known to change his programs on the fly and add illegal jump combinations that take away precious points. But he has had a strong season so far with two Grand Prix silver medals and a silver at the final. If he lands all of his jumps and doesn't do any funny business with combinations, he could find himself on the podium.
One of the questions on the minds of figure skating fans everywhere is, can Brian Joubert come back? He has been one of the top men in the world for at least six or seven seasons but never won an Olympic medal. He had a disastrous Grand Prix this season but came back to win French Nationals and the silver at Europeans. If he can maintain his technical level and keep doing the quads, I'd love to see him stay in through 2014 and go for an Olympic medal in Sochi. He performance at Worlds this year will be a good test of how relevant he is against the younger up and coming men. If he skates clean, the judges will probably give him the scores necessary to stand on the podium, but he'll have to do his part and land his jumps.
It pains me to say that Florent Amodio is one of the top contenders' in men's figure skating, but nonetheless the judges like him. Not only does he not have the quad, but in my opinion there is not much substance at all in his programs. His short program is good when he lands his jumps (note that Alissa Czisny outscored him in the short program at the Grand Prix Final) but his free skate is what my people call a hot tranny mess. Not only are the musical cuts between the four songs horrendous, but he does more gyrating in place than actual skating. I understand he is trying to channel Michael  Jackson, but the late great Michael had content in his performances, not just fluff. Though I know I won't agree with it, Amodio has top five potential.
Tomas Verner has my favorite mens short program of the season because it is so stylized and his so committed to his character in Singin In The Rain down to his use of the "prop" umbrella throughout the program. I like his Michael Jackson free skate better than Amodio's and I think he is a stronger skater overall. He beat Patrick Chan at Cup of Russia which shows that he can capitalize on others' mistakes, which could be the key to a good placement at Worlds. He also won bronze at Europeans this year so he has great momentum going into Moscow. He, however, cannot afford to  make mistakes like some men can and will need two clean programs. I don't see him landing on the podium this year but he could have a top five finish.
In The Hunt
Oh Ryan Bradley, what to do with you? He is one of the biggest wildcards in this field. We've seen him finish as low as 18th in previous years, but he also has the potential to finish on the podium if he lands his quad in the short program and his two quads in the free skate. His program components are also up in the air because many think he doesn't have the best skating skills or edges. He is known to be quite a showman, but one never can tell how judges will interpret his performance style. If he keeps his head about him, his technical score can be one of the highest in the mens event. He will be attempting 3 quads total, the same as Patrick Chan, his current training mate. It seems that working alongside Chan has boosted Bradley's competitive edge and confidence and I wish him the best of luck in Moscow.
Richard Dornbush was the surprise of US Nationals this season when he put together two solid programs to secure a silver medal and a berth on the World team. His success shouldn't have been a shock as he dominated the Junior Grand Prix circuit and won the final, posting one of the highest total scores of the entire season. He seems very confident and he really has nothing to lose by going all out in Moscow next week. Reports from practice state that he has been looking extremely solid and consistent. Other men in the competition have been extremely volatile this season and if Richard keeps it together, he could sneak into that final group.
Kevin Van Der Perren of Belgium is one of the oldest skaters in the competition. He actually tried to retire last season but his federation convinced him to stay in for one year. He is an amazing jumper and you can always count on him for a quad, but his artistry is lacking. Anywhere in the top ten would be a great finish for Kevin.
Kevin Reynolds of Canada is similar to Van Der Perren in that he is known for his jumping ability and not his presentation. He became the first man to do two quads in a short program this season and if he can do that  in Moscow, the TES alone should place him very high after the short. The long program will be the real test for him.
Michal Brezina placed just off the podium in 4th at last year's Worlds, but missed this season's Grand Prix due to injury. The delay of Worlds may have been just what Michal needed in order to fully recover and return to he shape he was in at last year's Worlds.
Samuel Contesti of Italy is another dark horse because his results can vary greatly from competition to competition. He finished 18th at the 2010 Olympics, but then came back to finish 7th at Worlds. His best finishes this season were 4th at Cup of Russia, and 6th at both Cup of China and Europeans.
Artur Gachinski has been touted as Russia's heir apparent to Evgeni Plushenko and he has shown signs of future success, but still is not considered among the top men in the world. He has been improving all season, placing 7th at Skate Canada, 6th at Cup of Russia, and 5th at Europeans. If he continues this steady climb he could place well at Worlds, especially on home ice. Though it would take a huge upset for him to medal, he can help Russia by securing a spots for 2 Russian men at next year's Worlds.
Spain's Javier Fernandez has one of my favorite free skates of the season, set to Pirates of the Caribbean, but he has had highs and lows this year. He placed an impressive 5th at Skate Canada but fell to 9th at Cup of Russia and Europeans. The quad is a huge factor for Javier because it sets the tone for his free skate. He also needs a respectable short program so he is in the top two groups going into the free.
Ross Miner of the US a true wildcard because he placed 9th at NHK Trophy this year and 7th at Cup of China, but pulled out two perfect programs to win bronze at the US championships over some of the top men in the world. I hope he goes into this competition with no expectations, as he did at US Nationals, and he may just sneak toward the top if the other men crumble.
The Rest of the Field
Sarkis Hayrapetyan (ARM): 42nd at 2010 Worlds; 2nd Junior at 2011 Nestle Kangus Cup; 5th Junior at 2011 Dragon Cup
Mark Webster (AUS): 39th at 2010 Worlds; 16th at 2011 Four Continents
Viktor Pfeifer (AUT): 21st at 2010 Olympics; 20th at 2010 Worlds; 18th at 2011 Europeans; 13th at 2010 Nebelhorn Trophy; 5th at 2010 Nepala Memorial Trophy; 12th at 2010 Skate America
Vitali Buchanok (BLR): 3rd at 2010 Junior Worlds; 23rd at 2011 Four Continents; 11th at 2010 JGP Brasov Cup; 1st Junior at 2010 Tirnavia Ice Cup; 1st Junior at 2010 Warsaw Cup
Jorik Hendrickx (BEL): 13th at 2011 Junior Worlds; 16th at 2011  Four Continents; 7th at 2010 JGP Austria; 6th at 2010 JGP Austria; 5th at 2010 NRW Trophy Singles Pairs
Georgi Kenchadze (BUL): 40th at 2010 Worlds; 20th at 2011 Europeans; 21st at 2010 Coup de Nice; 13th at 2010 Merano Cup
Joey Russell (CAN): 14th at 2011 Four Continents; 6th at 2010 Nebelhorn Trophy
Nan Song (CHN): 9th at 2011 Four Continents; 10th at 2010 Skate America; 6th at 2010 Grand Prix Paris; 3rd at 2011 Asian Winter Games
Stephen Li-Chung Kuo (TPE): 37th at 2010 Worlds; 20th at 2011 Four Continents
Justus Strid (DEN): 28th at 2011 Europeans; 6th at 2010 O Nepala Memorial; 16th at 2010 Coup de Nice; 7th at 2011 Nordics Copenhagen; 4th at 2011 Mont Blanc Trophy
Bela Papp (FIN): 22nd at 2011 Junior Worlds; 14th at 2010 JGP Brasov; 16th at 2010 JGP Dresden; 8th at 2011 The Nordics
Peter Liebers (GER): 15th at 2010 Worlds; 11th at 2011 Europeans; 3rd at 2010 Nebelhorn Trophy; 4th at 2010 Coup de Nice; 9th at 2010 Cup of China; 7th at 2010 Grand Prix Paris
David Richardson (GBR): 12th at 2011 Europeans; 7th at 2010 Mont Blanc Trophy; 8th at 2010 O Nepala Trophy; 7th at 2010 Ice Challenge Graz
Harry Hau Yin Lee (HKG): 20th at 2010 Junior Worlds; 22nd at 2010 JGP Karuizawa; 11 at 2011 Asian Winter Games
Tigran Vardanjan (HUN): 41st at 2010 Worlds; 14th at 2010 Ice Challenge Graz; 9th at 2010 Golden Spin
Maxim Shipov (ISR): 43rd at 2010 Worlds; 23rd at 2011 Europeans; 11th at 2010 Nebelhorn Trophy; 10th at 2010 Ice Challenge Graz; 7th at 2010 Golden Spin Zagreb; 5th at 2011 Mont Blanc Trophy
Paolo Bacchini (ITA): 20th at 2010 Olympics; 12th at 2011 Europeans; 8th at 2010 Finlandia Trophy; 12th at 2010 Skate Canada; 2nd at 2010 Merano Cup; 7th at 2011 Winter Universiade
Denis Ten (KAZ): 11th at 2010 Olympics; 13th at 2010 Worlds; 12th at 2010 NHK Trophy; 11th at 2010 Skate America; 1st Junior at 2010 Nestle Kangus Cup; 1st at 2011 Asian Winter Games
Kim Lucine (MON): 17th at 2011 Europeans; 2nd at 2010 O Nepala Memorial; 4th at 2010 Ice Challenge Graz; 7th at 2010 Merano Cup
Min-Seok Kim (KOR): 23rd at 2010 Worlds; 15th at 2011 Four Continents; 11th at 2010 JGP Austria; 12th at 2010 JGP Dresden; 9th at 2011 Asian Winter Games
Alexander Majorov (SWE):  3rd at 2011 Four Continents; 3rd at 2011 Junior Worlds; 2nd at 2010 Triglav Trophy; 5th at 2010 JGP Karuizawak; 3rd at 2010 JGP Czech; 1st at 2010 Ice Challenge Graz; 1st at 2010 NRW Trophy Singles Pairs; 1st at 2011 The Nordics
Adrian Schultheiss (SWE): 15th at 2010 Olympics; 9th at 2010 Worlds; 13th at 2011 Europeans; 4th at 2010 O Nepala Memorial; 10th at 2010 NHK Trophy; 7th at 2010 Skate America; 2nd at 2011 The Nordics; 2nd at 2011 Mont Blanc Trophy
Mikael Redin (SUI): 6th at 2010 Month Blanc Trophy; 6th at 2010 Triglav Trophy; 7th at O Nepala Memorial; 3rd at 2010 Crystal Skate; 5th at 2011 Bavarian Open
Kutay Eryoldas (TUR): 31st at 2010 Worlds; 13th at 2010 Triglav Trophy; 23rd at 2010 Nebelhorn Trophy; 4th at 2010 Crystal Skate; 18th at 2011 Winter Universiade
Anton Kovalevski (UKR): 24th at 2010 Olympics; 16th at 2010 Worlds; 15th at 2011 Europeans; 3rd at 2010 O Nepala Memorial; 12th at 2010 Cup of Russia; 8th at 2010 Grand Prix Paris; 3rd at 2010 Golden Spin Zagreb
Misha Ge (UZB): 12th at 2011 Four Continents; 6th at 2011 Asian Winter Games

1 comment:

  1. Florent is planning to put the quad in his free skate at Worlds.