New stars will shine at figure skating world championships

Editor’s note: is live streaming every short and free program at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships, beginning Wednesday at 6 a.m. ET. The event will also be featured on Road to the Olympic Games on CBC Television Wednesday through Friday at 7 p.m. local time and Saturday at 3 p.m. ET. Here’s Pj Kwong’s breakdown of what to expect at worlds.

Several of figure skating’s biggest stars will be missing from the world championships. That list includes some two-time  Olympic gold medallists — Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu — as well as two-time world champ Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia. With those marquee names out, many fans are looking at this year’s event as the typical post-Olympic letdown.

I don’t agree, though. While it’s true that several big-time skaters have withdrawn, I’m excited to see which newer stars will emerge when the worlds begin Wednesday in Milan, Italy.

Here’s what I’ll be looking for in each event:

Ice dance: Pap and Ciz ready to reclaim gold

At the last post-Olympic world championships, in 2014, Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte won the ice dance event. If you look a little further down the results sheet, you’ll see the names of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron appear for the first time at worlds. Although the French duo finished 13th, they were already creating a buzz, and they’d go on to win the next two world titles, the next four European crowns and the 2018 Olympic silver medal, behind Virtue and Moir.

The French duo took home the ice dance gold medal at the ISU Grand Prix Final in Nagoya, Japan7:52

There’s no doubt in my mind that Papadakis and Cizeron are going to claim their third world championship in Milan, but I’m also pulling for Cappellini and Lanotte to get back on the podium in front of a hometown crowd.

Men: Chen won’t make the same mistake

The men’s event looks like it belongs to the kids. Twenty-year-old Shoma Uno of Japan is the 2018 Olympic silver medallist and the highest-ranked man skating in Milan. This is only Uno’s third trip to the world championships and he took the silver medal a year ago. He’ll be up against two-time American champion and jumping phenom Nathan Chen, 18, who rebounded from a disappointing 17th-place showing in the short program at the Olympics to win the free skate and finish fifth. 

I don’t expect Chen to make the same short-program mistake in Milan. I think as he gains competitive experience and confidence in the glare of the spotlight, he’ll become a consistent force to be reckoned with. Chen vs. Uno is a great rivalry that could go either way.

The American took gold at the the ISU Grand Prix Final in Nagoya, Japan one year after winning silver in his debut senior season8:38

Pairs: Olympic champs go for first world title together

In 2014, two pairs skated together for the last time. Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy won their fifth and final world title a month following their second Olympic bronze medal. Further down the list, Bruno Massot and Daria Popova competed together at the world championships for the first and final time. Both partnerships dissolved and Savchenko and Massot found each other.

In Pyeongchang, Savchenko and Massot’s free skate was magical and put them on top of the podium as Olympic champions. It will be a treat to see them skate again and, if all goes according to plan, it will mean a first world title in their third appearance together at worlds.

The German pair won both the free skate and short program at the ISU Grand Prix Final in Nagoya, Japan.9:50

Women: Canada’s Osmond and Daleman are medal threats again

Canada’s women are very much in the mix for the podium in Milan. Both Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman have extraordinary ability, and when they’re “on” it shows in the results. At last year’s worlds, Osmond was the silver medallist while Daleman took the bronze. Osmond, of course, went on to win Olympic silver last month.

Both skaters are aiming for the podium in Milan but will have to get past the dazzling 2018 Olympic champion Alina Zagitova. The 15-year old Russian has, incredibly, only been competing internationally since the 2016-2017 season. In 11 international events, including the Olympic Games, Youth Olympic Games, Junior World Championship and both Junior and Senior Grand Prix Finals, Zagitova has won 10 times.

Zagitova posted a total score of 223.30 points to claim gold at the ISU Grand Prix Final in Nagoya, Japan.8:05

While the world championships in Milan will mostly be a chance to catch a glimpse of new stars on the horizon, we’ll also see some skaters take their final bow. Carolina Kostner, 31, will make her remarkable 14th appearance at worlds since 2003. In her history-making career she earned the first world and European titles for an Italian woman and is widely regarded as one of skating’s premier artists. Regardless of the result, her performance will be one to savour on Italian ice.

Pj’s gold-medal picks

Men: Nathan Chen (United States)

Women: Alina Zagitova (Russia)

Pairs: Aliona Savcheko and Bruno Massot (Germany)

Ice Dance: Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (France)

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