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2016 World Championships

World's Best to Compete in Boston

by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(28 March 2016)  Two years after U.S. Nationals were successfully held in Boston, the World Championships 2016 is being organized in the same TD Garden. Boston has a long skating tradition, but it is the first time a world championships takes place in this city. 172 skaters from 38 countries entered, which is much less than years ago when there was no ISU minimum and each country could send at least one skater in each category.

There are three men who have shown outstanding performances during this season and who should win the three medals if they are almost as good again. But it is completely open which medal they will win. Yuzuru Hanyu from Japan holds a kind of world record even if the ISU officially does not speak of world records. At the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona in December he won outstanding 330 points, but suffered from a foot injury afterwards and came back to full training only in late February. During this Monday practice in the main rink, he skated a clean program.  The reigning world champion Javier Fernandez from Spain earned 302 points at Europeans in January and is another hot medal candidate. Three time world champion Patrick Chan from Canada, who had skipped the season 2014/2015 and came back in the fall of 2015, was in excellent shape at the Four Continents Championships in February, winning 290 points there.

In case one of these three is not doing well there are others who have a medal chance if they are outstanding: The two Americans Max Aaron and the new U.S champion Adam Rippon try to profit from home advantage. Nam Nguyen from Canada was fifth at last year’s world championships, but due to a growth spurt not in very good shape in the fall and at Nationals. He is strong again and only at Worlds because in early March the Canadian federation announced that Liam Firus, who qualified at Nationals for Worlds, stepped back and said that Nguyen had a better chance to get three spots for Canada for next year than himself. Other outsiders for a medal are World medalist Denis Ten from Kazakhstan although he still has not overcome an injury completely. The two Chinese quad jumpers Boyang Jin and Han Yan also hope for a medal, as well as Maxim Kovtun from Russia and the second Japanese man Shoma Uno.

There are only 30 men who qualified: 14 from Europe, 10 from Asia and 6 from America (including one from Argentina). France has two spots but its federation, in a strange decision, decided to send only its champion Chafik Besseghier but after the retirement of Florent Amodio not its second skater Romain Ponsart who trains in Colorado. He has the ISU minimum of 34 technical points for the short and 64 technical points for the long program, but not the even harder French internal minimum. Alexander Majorov, the only Swedish skater to meet the minimum had to withdraw due to injury. The prize money for the three medal winners is 45,000,  27,000 and 18,000 US-Dollars.

There are 38 ladies who entered the competition because the ISU minimum not as hard as for the men, being only 27 and 47 points. But no lady does a quad and almost nobody a triple axel, so this makes sense. Evgenia Medvedeva from Russia is a kind of favorite after winning the Grand Prix Final three months ago with 222 points. Her teammates Elena Radionova and Anna Pogorilaya also hope for a medal although Pogorilaya is not always stable.  Medvedeva’s main rival might be Japan’s new star Satoko Miyahara who won the Four Continents Championships in February 2016 and had won silver at last year’s world championship.  Her team mate and three time world champion Mao Asada should not be neglected. If Gracie Gold or Ashley Wagner can finally perform two clean programs, the two U.S. ladies are also medal candidates. Last year’s world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva from Russia did not qualify because this season including at Russian Nationals, she was a bit out of shape. Also to observe are Rika Hong from Japan and Mirai Nagasu who competes instead of Polina Edmunds who withdrew because of a bone bruise.

In the pair competition, the Olympic gold medalists Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov from Russia are back after not competing during the last season due to Trankov’s shoulder injury. In January they won Europeans easily and are the favorites. Their team mates Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov, winners of the Grand Prix final, did not take part at Europeans because of injury, but can be expected strong again. Therefore the 2015 World Champions Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford from Canada, who did not have an excellent season up to now, cannot be sure to win again. One German and three Chinese teams are also aiming for medals. Five time world champion Aliona Savchenko and her new partner Bruno Massot dream of Olympic gold and would like to be in the top five at their first Worlds after being second at Europeans in January.

China traditionally has strong pairs. Hot medal candidates are especially Wenjing Sui & Cong Han who won Four Continents a bit more than a month ago. Other pairs to watch are other two Chinese pairs and European bronze medalists Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov. The Chinese pair of Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang withdrew in the last minute due to injury. 22 pair are entered which means that six will not reach the final. The prize money for the pair (and ice dance) medalists are 67,500, 40,500 and 27,000 US Dollars. The Canadian silver national silver medalists Julianne Séguin & Charlie Bilodeau withdrew because Séguin suffers from a foot injury. 

In the present judging system, ice dance competitions are much more interesting than in the old 6.0 system because it is no longer mainly the reputation and former results which decide about the placement, but more the performance of the real competition. The fact that Papadakis & Cizeron became world champions in 2015 although they were only 13th the year before is the best example. Therefore it is completely open if the French who train in Montreal, can defend their title in spite of their magic style, but they are kind of favorites. Three North American pairs also dream of a gold medal: Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje from Canada won the Grand Prix Final, Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani of Canton, Michigan were first at the Four Continents Championships and Madison Chock & Evan Bates of Novi, Michigan were second at last year’s World Championships. All three are expected to be among the top as well as the Italians Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte who were World Champions in 2014.

Russia’s best dance couple Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev is banned from competition because during Europeans, Bobrova was tested positive with a forbidden heart drug which improves stamina and is on the doping list since January 2016. The best Russian team now are Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov who train in Canton, but a medal is quite unprobable.