Wednesday, February 17, 2016

2016 Four Continents Preview/Predictions

Here we are again... a major skating competition straight ahead (Feb 18-21 to be specific, though its Taiwanese locale means the U.S. audience will be catching the start of the short dance on the very edge of Feb. 17) and I HAVE YET TO WRITE UP ANYTHING ABOUT U.S. NATIONALS OR THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS.


But anyway... thank goodness... the competitive season marches on, so the least I can do is get some predictions in before said competition gets going! So here’s what I’ve got for the 2016 Four Continents Championship:

DANCE—16 teams from 7 countries

GOLD: Weaver/Poje (CAN)
SILVER: Shibutanis (USA)
BRONZE: Chock/Bates (USA)

DARK HORSE: Hubbell/Donohue (USA)

Now that Maia and Alex have conquered the U.S. Championships, it’s nice to think of them being considered a favorite at 4CCs (where those pesky French and Russian dance teams will NOT be). But we mustn’t forget the equally pesky—and by “pesky” I mean awe-inducing—Weaver and Poje. I will go out on a tiny limb, though, and pick the Shibs for silver over Chock/Bates.

LADIES – 23 competitors from 10 countries

GOLD: Satoko Miyahara (JPN)
SILVER: Gracie Gold (USA)
BRONZE: Rika Hongo (JPN)

DARK HORSE: Alaine Chartrand (CAN)

As I write this, a poll I’m running on Twitter currently leans in favor of Gold winning her first 4CC title this weekend. So I don’t suppose my prediction will sit well with those fans! I can see why she’s favored; her FS at Nats was fantastic, the kind of performance that could take her skating around a more confident corner for years to come. And if she skates like that against Miyahara’s best, I might have her winning too. But I’m not ready to put Gracie’s jumps over Miyahara’s consistency just yet.

And I just took a look at Chartrand’s FS from Canadian Nats, where she won the title. She’s taken out the triple axel attempt that derailed her program throughout the GP season—her toughest jump pass is now a 3lutz/3toe—and she was mighty good. Look out for her if she can skate like that in Taiwan.

PAIRS—10 teams from 5 countries, including North Korea (for only the 2nd time that I can recall in a major international competition)

GOLD: Duhamel/Radford (CAN)
BRONZE: Kayne/O’Shea (USA)

DARK HORSE: Scimeca/Knierim (USA) or Yu/Jin (CHN)

Du/Rad hit a mid-season slump—as much as they’re capable of these days, anyway—starting near the end of the GP season. Even so, my wager is that they’ll bounce back (or start to) here at 4CC. Their biggest threat is China’s Sui/Han, and they are legit of course (winning silver to Du/Rad’s gold at 2015 Worlds). But they withdrew from the GPF due to injury, so I’m not sure what to expect here. As for the U.S. representation... new national champs Kayne/O’Shea actually had a very good outing at this event two years ago, winning silver over Scimeca/Knierim’s bronze. Will 2014 history repeat itself? I’m saying yes, though I suspect the gap between the two teams will be much tighter than it was a few weeks ago in St. Paul.

MEN—23 competitors from 11 countries

GOLD: Patrick Chan (CAN)
SILVER: Shoma Uno (JPN)
BRONZE: Jin Boyang (CHN)

DARK HORSE: Max Aaron (USA) or Takahito Mura (JPN)

Denis Ten (last year’s 4CC winner) has withdrawn due to injury. Adam Rippon (who won 4CC waaaay back in 2010) gave up his spot this year to focus on Worlds. So who’s got the edge?  Patrick Chan has won here twice before (2009 & 2012), and while he had a rough re-entry to competition earlier in the season, his Canadian Nats performances (where he just won for the 8th time with nearly 60 points between him and 2nd-place Liam Firius) indicating he’s likely got his groove back... or at least enough of it to win in a field without Fernandez or Hanyu. Uno, I think, is well on his way to a Hanyu-esque sort of greatness, but is likely to settle for silver here. Jin has definitely proven himself capable of pulling down some serious technical scores, but his free skates have still proven to be somewhat sloppy affairs overall—and his “artistry” cannot yet share the air with the big guns. So he’ll do well to make the podium at all, especially if either Aaron or Mura do all they’re capable of.

Live coverage in the U.S. can be found via NBC will air 2 hours worth of coverage this coming Sunday (“check your local listings”)... and if you want to join the Twitterverse as things unfold, the event is #4CCTaipeiCity and you can find me @KLBSt8ofSk8.