Friday, March 21, 2014

Living in a Post-Olympic World(s)

It’s such a kettle of mixed emotions when it comes to World Figure Skating Championships in an Olympic year. For some athletes, it’s a stab at redemption following disappointment at the Games. For others, it’s the swan song that takes them into Olympic-eligible retirement. For a few, it’s both. For a few more, it’s neither—as they were either not part of the Olympic team, or were, but found satisfaction with their work there and see Worlds as simply the next logical step in their journey. Oh, and every single competitor at the event is likely to be feeling the fatigue (and sometimes, consequential illness) that comes with the final event of a longer-and-more-stressful-than-usual season.

Feelings vary for skating fans too. There are those that, noting all the A-listers that often skip the event for whatever reasons, think of post-Olympic Worlds as something less than a “real” championship. Then there are those that see it as rife with opportunity for overlooked and/or underappreciated skaters, old and new alike.

Whatever your take is, there’s no denying the mass of storylines that emerged the last time this all went down...

Previously... at the 2010 Post-Olympic Worlds, in Torino...

-- Daisuke Takahashi became the first Japanese man to win a World title... Patrick Chan converted his Olympics disappointment into Worlds Silver... likewise, Brian Joubert rebounded from a poor Olympics with the bronze medal (last time he was on the Worlds podium, incidentally).

-- Jeremy Abbott and Adam Rippon finished 5th and 6th, respectively—not only their best finishes to date, but also the most recent time the U.S. men earned three spots for the following year.

-- Crazy inconsistencies took place in the ladies event: Mirai Nagasu was 1st after the SP but 11th in the FS (finishing 7th overall)... Kim Yuna skipped an entire element in the SP, if I recall, and was down in 7th before a FS win vaulted her to 2nd overall. Akiko Suzuki was 20th in the SP and 7th in the FS (11th overall). Miki Ando was 11th in the SP and 3rd in the FS (4th overall). All these ups and downs allowed for a few surprises for less accomplished but more “steady” competitors, such as Cynthia Phaneuf of Canada managing her highest Worlds finish ever (5th)... and Laura Lepisto of Finland winning bronze (first-ever World medal for a Finnish lady)!

-- Pang/Tong won the pairs title... it was the 2nd time they won, and 2nd time they won directly after the Olympics. Savchenko/Szolkowy collected silver, while Olympic 4th-placers Kavaguti/Smirnov moved up to win bronze.

-- Worlds 2010 turned out to be the last major competition for the Canadian team of Dube/Davison (2008 World Bronze Medalists), as well as the Russian team of Mukhortova/Trankov... the latter of which would go on to be much better known for an amazing pair of yellow pants and an even more amazing Olympic Gold Medal.

-- Worlds 2010 also marked the final time compulsory and original dances were competed at that championship. As for the competitors: Virtue/Moir won the dance title, with Davis/White finishing less than 2 points behind them for silver. Bronze went to veterans Faiella/Scali of Italy; it was their first (and only) world medal... Pechalat/Bourzat were in that all-too-familiar 4th slot. Then-rising stars Bobrova/Soloviev of Russia and Cappillini/Lanotte of Italy took 8th/11th, respectively.

SO... that was four years ago. What storylines are looming on the 2014 Worlds horizon?

n      Only one reigning OGM will be there (Yuzuru Hanyu). Will he claim his first Worlds title as well... especially in the absence of reigning World Champ Chan?
n      How will Jeremy Abbott fare in his final competition? And can he and Max Aaron get a third spot back for the U.S. as the ladies did last year?
n      Can Carolina Kostner or Mao Asada reclaim the World title they’ve each held in the past? Or will it be Julia Lipnitskaia’s time?
n      Can Gracie Gold find her way to her first World podium?
n      Can Ashley Wagner get her 3/3 groove back?
n      Can  Florent Amodio F get ANY groove back?
n      Will Pechalat/Bourzat close out their competitive careers with another World medal? And will a Russian team reclaim ice dance gold in the absence of the dueling North Americans?
n      Will Maxim Kovtun show the world why HE should’ve been at the Olympics instead of that one guy... what’s his name... oh, never mind, it’s not important.
n      Will Savchenko/Szolkowy be glad they stuck around for one more event?
n      Can Stolbova/Klimov recapture their “surprise” Olympic magic?
n      Will the U.S. hold on to all three ice dance spots?
n      Can we get through an entire major competitive event this season without crying FOUL when we see the results?
n      And most importantly... what color will Misha Ge’s hair be this time??

We’ll know the answers to these, and so many more questions, by month’s end. Check this schedule for daily event times. Things get underway Tuesday, March 25.

Who will I predict for the podium? I’ll post my guesses late Monday/early Tuesday. Hit the comments to leave your own Worlds prediction thoughts!


Kelli Lawrence said...

I'll answer one of these questions myself: No groove back for Amodio... apparently the French Fed announced he won't be competing :-(

sara.raju said...

I really hope Pechalat and Bourzat take the Dance title. I felt like they were underscored in Sochi, and if Gracie Gold wins something, I shall give up FS fandom FOREVER(that's a lie, I'll just stew in silence)