Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Four Continents Preview
The Four Continents Championships kick off Thursday in Taipei and are the final big tune-up for the World Championships for the non-European figure skating nations. Four Continents was originally a B or C-list competition that skaters like Yoshie Onda won, but it has developed into a formidable competition due to forced (or strongly-encouraged) participation by the ISU over the last four years. Skaters use the Four Continents to build momentum and reputation, while trying to avoid giving their peak performance a month too early. ISU ass-kissing federations, like Skate Canada, treat Four Continents with the utmost importance and will routinely proclaim their skaters the best in the world following a gold medal. Oddly, Patrick Chan (the PCS-magnet) declined to participate in the Four Continents Championships in order to save his best stuff for the World Figure Skating Championships. Patrick peaked at Four Continents in 2009 and was unable to deliver another golden performance at this year's World Championships.
Despite Patrick's absence, the event will go on and feature several intriguing storylines.
The Wonderful World of Ice Dance
All eyes are on Voir as they return to competition for the first time since winning the 2010 Olympic Games and 2010 World Championships. They sat out of the Grand Prix and Canadian Nationals while Tessa recovered from shin surgery. Four Continents marks the debut of their samba free dance and features a much-anticipated showdown with Marlie. It remains to be seen whether they have had enough time to perfect their programs enough to challenge their training mates and rivals. Many teams have had to make adjustments to their short dances throughout the season. In their absence, Crone and Poirier have made great strides both nationally and internationally. Will Voir be able to challenge for gold, and if not, will they be able to be the top Canadian dance team (with or without the aid of politics)?
Marlie have been undefeated this season, but they now face perhaps the only team with the ability to outperform them at their best. Unlike the last two seasons, their programs are not particularly buzzworthy vehicles. Their tango free dance has been a challenge and work-in-progress all season. Will they continue to improve their emotion or will it be a sexless tango?
The Shibutanis and Chock and Zuerlein both captured two bronze medals on the Grand Prix circuit. Can they continue to climb the international ranks? Can the Shibutanis build upon their strong showing at Nationals and manage a medal against three strong Canadian teams?
Pang and Tong are widely expected to dominate this competition. Can they perform well enough to gain the momentum necessary to defend their World Title against a very strong Savchenko and Szolkowy?
Moore-Towers and Moscovitch are hoping for at least a silver medal, but can they hold off Yankowskas and Coughlin? Can Evora and Ladwig challenge for a podium? And can the new pair of Marley and Brubaker make a respectable showing so early in their career together, or will this be a giant case of too much too soon?
Will Takahashi and Tran upset everyone?
Mao Asada has struggled this season. She also struggled last year before improving at Japanese Nationals and winning the Four Continents en route to an Olympic Silver Medal and second world title. Will Mao get her season on track and be a challenger at Worlds?
Can Alissa Czisny continue her dream season and deliver two strong performances yet again? Is it too soon for her to be in winning form after her emotional win at US Nationals? If she doesn't win here, will it impede her momentum and confidence for Worlds?
Will Miki Ando be the unpopular spoiler yet again? Can Rachael Flatt fix a troubling season or will we get to see her pissy in the Kiss and Cry yet again? Will Mirai Nagasu prove that she has what it takes to win against the best in the world? Will Akiko Suzuki surprise everyone?
Will Yu-Na Kim's absence from Four Continents prove to be her undoing at Worlds?
Patrick Chan may not be competing, but Japan is bringing a team of Takahiko Kozuka, Daisuke Takahashi and Yuzuru Hanyu to battle with the USA's Gay Christmas Team of Jeremy Abbott, Adam Rippon and Armin Mahbanoozadeh. For Jeremy and Adam, it is important that they have good showings and show the USFSA just how foolish they were to bury them at US Nationals (when they certainly didn't have to.)
Daisuke Tahashi has commented to some that he hasn't been training that well lately. Was putting off his knee surgery a mistake? Can Takahiko Kozuka solidify himself as a favorite at Worlds? Will Jeremy Abbott manage another international medal or title that isn't at a World or Olympic event? Or will Adam Rippon do the improbable and land three triple axels to defend his title?
Fan-favorite Shawn Sawyer and quad-master Kevin Reynolds will help make this a most interesting event.
16:00 Ice Dance: Short Dance
19:30 Pairs: Short Program
12:00 Men: Short Program
16:45 Pairs: Free Skate
20:00 Ice Dance: Free Dance
13:00 Ladies: Short Program
18:00 Men: Free Skating
11:30 Ladies: Free Skate
Where To Watch
Ice Network does not have the rights to Four Continents. Universal Sports supposedly has the rights to the event, but doesn't appear to be airing the event. Justin.tv will be the trusted source for most fans who wish to watch live international feeds. Stay tuned for times and networks. CTV is going to air the event.
If all else fails, our obsessive Japanese fans/friends should prove to do the trick on youtube. With Miki, Mao, Daisuke and Kozuka competing, there is a great possibility that a Japanese skater will win a gold medal. You can bet that the fans from the nation obsessed with honor will all over proving their dominance to the world and posting youtube clips about why Yu-Na shouldn't even bother to show up in Tokyo should one of their ladies prevail.