Editor’s note: CBCSports.ca is live streaming every short and free program at the Cup of China, beginning Friday at 3:30 a.m. ET. The event will also be featured on Road to the Olympic Games on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on CBC Television. Here’s Pj Kwong’s breakdown of what to expect at the Grand Prix.
As the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating shifts to Beijing this week for the Audi Cup of China — the third of six stops in the series — it feels like men’s figure skating has reached a turning point.
The traditional route to success has been weaving great jumps with masterful choreography in equal measure. But another way to the top that we’re seeing more and more these days is focusing on jumping excellence and the big points that go with that strategy.
Take, for example, world bronze medallist Boyang Jin, who became the first skater to do a quad Lutz/triple toe combination in competition at this event a year ago.
If I had to choose, I prefer the traditional way, which is why skaters like two-time world champion Javier Fernandez hold such appeal for me. Fernandez has his work cut out for him in Beijing, where he’ll face Jin. In the end, I think Fernandez’s extraordinary ability as a performer along with his outstanding technique will win out.
Ladies: Daleman is fierce
Japan has another skating star in the wings in Marin Honda, but she’s still evolving from two-time world junior medallist to senior-level contender.
Although not at her best at the recent Finlandia Cup, Canada’s Gabrielle Daleman has been a match for every woman in this field. A fierce competitor, she really hit her stride at the world championships last March, where she captured a bronze medal. I think past results will predict the future here.
Pairs: China is back
China’s legacy in pairs is well known, although there was a bit of a dip in their success rate for a couple of seasons.
But two teams in the top four at worlds in 2017, including world champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, it would seem like China’s pairs program is back on track — so much so that I would venture to say it’ll be a battle between Sui and Han and teammates Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang for the top spot.
China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong win pairs gold at ISU Worlds9:00
Dance: Chock full of flair
The names of two teams jump off the starting list for me in ice dance: Madison Chock and Evan Bates, and Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.
Chock is a skater who can make me buy whatever she’s selling every time, with charisma and flair that jumps beyond the boards. That alone makes her and Bates compelling and fun to watch.
Chock and Bates take Ice Dance bronze in Boston5:07
The trick is whether or not this American duo can convert that style into a win over Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. It won’t be an easy task as the French duo hasn’t taken two world titles without outstanding technique, preparation and more than a little flair of their own.
Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron take ice dance silver7:51
Pj’s gold-medal picks
Men: Javier Fernandez (Spain)
Ladies: Gabrielle Daleman (Canada)
Pairs: Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (China)
Dance: Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (France)