Since 1999 skaters from non-European nations have been vying for titles at the ISU Four Continents figure skating Championships. This year is no exception with the championship heading to Colorado Springs, Colo., for the third time.
The competition features the added thrill of performances and rivalries that would normally only be found at the world championships.
If you are an ice dance fan, look no further than Colorado for a 'winner takes all' head-to-head contest between reigning world champions from the United States, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and Olympic champions from Canada, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. At stake are bragging rights and a psychological edge that could make the difference at worlds in Nice, France next month.
The last time these two teams met was at the Grand Prix Final where the Americans took the short dance while the Canadians won the free dance. Each team posted the highest score ever in their respective segment. What will make it such a thrilling contest is that neither team can afford to make even the slightest error if they want that top podium spot.
The 2011 world bronze medallists from the United States, Maia and Alex Shibutani, will have their work cut out for them if they want to reach the podium. The 2010 Four Continents champions from Canada, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, have been coming on like gangbusters all season and will be hard to stop.
All eyes on Canada's Chan
All eyes will be on the reigning world champion Patrick Chan from Canada in the men's event. He is fresh from a sensational and two record-breaking performances at the Canadian championships two weeks ago, where he clinched his fifth national title. He is eager to face the competition in his training home base, and told me that already being used to the high altitude in Colorado Springs will give him an edge.
The 2010 world champion Daisuke Takahashi of Japan took the silver at the Grand Prix Final by a margin of .55 to Chan's gold. You can bet that Takahashi will take nothing for granted and will undoubtedly pose the biggest threat to Chan.
Asada on comeback trail
I cannot wait to see the next step on the comeback trail for Japan's Mao Asada. The 2010 Olympic silver medallist and two-time world champion has slowly been regaining her strength and form since changing coaches to Nobuo Sato over a year ago.
The change in technique and philosophy along with the tremendous patience she has shown as the dust has settled in her skating life is paying off. What remains to be seen is how she is managing emotionally since the death of her mother in December 2011.
For Canadian fans, the Four Continents' results will determine for Skate Canada who will occupy the lone spot for the women's event at worlds. Will it be newly crowned Canadian champion Amelie Lacoste? Will it be two-time former Canadian champion Cynthia Phaneuf? Stay tuned.
Wide open pairs field
What interests me about the pairs event is the fact that with so many new teams it leaves the field wide open. I am expecting the most intense competition to be between three teams.
The two-time junior world champions from China, Wenjing Sui and Cong Han are making their debut this week, and have posted the highest season's scores among the competitors in Colorado.
American champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin were impressive at their national event especially considering they have been skating together only seven months.
Rounding out the top three are Canadian champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. This team oozes potential, finished seventh at the world in 2011, and are the defending Four Continents silver medallists. If Duhamel and Radford can throw down the kind of performance that they did at Canadians, they will be tough to beat.
Men: Patrick Chan, Canada
Ladies: Mao Asada, Japan
Dance: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Canada
Pairs: Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, Canada
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