A Japanese sweep of the men’s podium is entirely possible this week at the World Championships. Defending champion Daisuke Takahashi and current and former Japanese champions Takahiko Kozuka and Nobunari Oda have proven that they are three of the best skaters in the world. But Canadian champ Patrick Chan is likely going to have something to say about that.
Here are the key names to watch for this week on the men’s side:
Florent Amodio FRA– Amodio has been the surprise of the season. Newly crowned European champion, the youngster from France has been on fire all season. He has some great qualities, but as much as I enjoy seeing unorthodox approaches to competitive skating, the way-too-many-pop-song-instrumentals-in-one free skate doesn’t show off his true strengths. I don’t see it holding up against the Japanese or Chan this week. But you never know, Worlds could be yet another pleasant surprise for Amodio fans.
Ryan Bradley USA– After taking the U.S. title in January, Bradley breathed a second, and more decorated, life into his career. That said, he has never been looked at all that favorably on the international scene, partly due to his past inconsistency. Like other skaters recently who have opted for the less dramatic and more audience-pleasing route (with perhaps the exception of Phillippe Candeloro), big competition success has been tougher to achieve. Top ten is very achievable, and if all the quads and triple axels are in the right places, don’t count him out for top five.
Patrick Chan CAN– In the weeks leading up to the originally-scheduled Worlds in late March, many would have tapped Chan as the favorite for the title after two silver medals, including one at last year’s Worlds. And why not? Early in the season, he struggled but the judges went to great lengths to keep him up in the standings (see Cup of Russia silver medal). But at Grand Prix Final and Canadians, he really turned heads – with terrific skating this time. He has had the momentum for months, and he will need to rely on that new-found love for the quad toe to grab that first World title.
Brian Joubert FRA– The last time it was the season after the Olympics, Joubert won the World Championships. But this time around, he is coming into the competition as a bit of a dark horse, after looking a bit lackluster earlier on.in the season. He won the French Nationals over Amodio, but then lost to him at Europeans. He will need all of his quads to contend, that’s for sure.
Takahiko Kozuka JPN– The new Japanese champ had the task of going through qualies today to make it to the short program. He did that with ease – well, if “ease” means posting one of the best free skate scores. Unfortunately for Kozuka, that score doesn’t carry over to the finals. After looking a bit iffy at Four Continents, it looks like Kozuka is right where he needs to be right now. Let’s hope he doesn’t leave it in the qualifying rounds.
Nobunari Oda JPN– After the great success of the Chaplin free skate last year (which, unfortunately fizzled toward the end of the season), Oda has unfortunately fallen back in the presentation department of his skating. Don’t get me wrong, I can watch him jump for hours, but in a field like this, it will take more than just effortless jumps to get on the podium. That said, Oda has been consistent this year (let’s hope there won’t be a repeat of last year’s left-field dismal effort at Worlds), and he can benefit from mistakes from the top guns.
Daisuke Takahashi JPN– Takahashi made history by becoming the first Japanese men’s skater to win Worlds last season. He has been up and down this season, but at his best, he and Chan are currently heads above the rest at these Championships. But after early success with the toe this season, the quad has been unreliable for much of the rest. Quad toe or quad flip? I vote for the quad flip, and it would be the first ever done in competition.
Tomas Verner CZE– This season has been a rebirth for Verner, who seemed to have completely lost any semblance of his old self during the Olympic season. Going back to basics (and sporting a Michael Jackson medley free skate), he has gained a consistency that has eluded him in the past. He has unfortunately also had to go through some bad PR at home after performing in North Korea a few months ago, so it will be interesting to see where his mind is at this point.
Others in the mix– The Americans will be represented by Bradley and the two surprise medalists at Nationals, Richard Dornbush and Ross Miner. While many expected Jeremy Abbott and Adam Rippon to easily qualify, it was the two new faces who made headlines. Resecuring the three spots for the American men at next year’s Worlds will be a tall task for these two, but they proved that they can hang with the big boys back in January.
Canadian Kevin Reynolds has three different quads in his arsenal, but has been incredibly inconsistent this season. An early retirement by Canadian silver medalist Shawn Sawyer gave him this chance to redeem his season at Worlds.
To make the competition even more interesting, there’s always Kevin Van Der Perren, Michal Brezina, Samuel Contesti, Denis Ten, Nan Song, and Peter Liebers, who all have top ten potential written all over them.
1. Patrick Chan CAN
2. Takahiko Kozuka JPN
3. Daisuke Takahashi JPN
4. Nobunari Oda JPN
5. Tomas Verner CZE
6. Brian Joubert FRA
7. Ryan Bradley USA
8. Florent Amodio FRA
9. Kevin Reynolds CAN
10. Richard Dornbush USA
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