At this week's World Figure Skating Championships, the only discipline with a clear favourite is the men's event, with
world record holder Patrick Chan of Canada looking to defend his title in Nice, France.
Chan's biggest opposition figures to come from
former world champion Daisuke Takahashi of Japan. Takahashi's strength
is in displaying the same joie de vivre and technical prowess
that Chan shows in his skating, but he will have to be flawless in both
the short and the free to really challenge the champion.
The only discipline with a clear favourite is the men's event, with world record holder Patrick Chan of Canada looking to defend his title in Nice, France. Chan's biggest opposition figures to come from former world champion Daisuke Takahashi of Japan. Takahashi's strength is in displaying the same joie de vivre and technical prowess that Chan shows in his skating, but he will have to be flawless in both the short and the free to really challenge the champion.
There are other men in this race who can make a clear sprint to the top of the podium difficult for Chan. Bursting onto the landscape of serious contenders this season is Spain's Javier Fernandez, who would like nothing better than to be the first Spaniard to win a world championship medal.
In conversation with me on Saturday, Chan admitted to not having practiced well last week. But as unsettling as practice struggles can be, Chan acknowledged with a chuckle: "Better last week than this week."
Chan took a couple of minutes to talk to CBC Sports about this week's worlds, Nice and his goal:
In the rest of the events, rivalries will take centre stage.
Ladies: Kostner vs. Asada
I'm predicting that Italy's Carolina Kostner is finally going to reach the top step of the ladies' podium this year. Kostner is a four-time European champion who has demonstrated a new consistency this season that has bolstered her confidence in her competition performance.
Japan's Mao Asada is Kostner's biggest challenger. Asada is a two-time world champion who slipped off the podium last year. Now she's looking to reclaim not only her title but her dominance in the ladies' field.
There are three other noteworthy competitors that in my mind are seriously in the medal hunt: newly crowned American and Four Continents champion Ashley Wagner, European bronze medallist Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia, and perennial bridesmaid Akiko Suzuki of Japan.
Dance: Virtue & Moir vs. Davis & White
The question in the ice dance event is who will the bronze medal, because the top two spots are virtually locked down. It's just a question of the order. My prediction is that the Canadian team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will hold their own for the gold against rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White from the United States. It really could go either way, but I'm convinced by the changes that Virtue and Moir made to their programs after losing the Grand Prix Final that the title is theirs to lose.
Battling for the bronze medal will be Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, and the French team of Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat. I know that being in France might give the French team the edge, but I'm basing my prediction of Weaver and Poje taking the bronze on their superior material this season. Pairs: Savchenko & Szolkowy vs. Volosozhar & Trankov
The final rivalry is in the pairs' event between three-time and defending world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, and 2011 world silver medallists Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia.
Both teams have outstanding athleticism and are well matched. When they last met, at the Grand Prix Final in Quebec City in December, the Germans edged out the Russians by a very slim 0.18-point margin.
Once again, it could go either way, but I think the artistry of Volosozhar and Trakov will prevail in the end.
There is a wild card, though, in the pairs' event: the return of two-time world champions Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China. This is Pang and Tong's first and only competition this season. If they perform to their highest standard, then all bets are off.
Pj's picks for gold
Men: Patrick Chan (Canada) Ladies: Carolina Kostner (Italy) Dance: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (Canada) Pairs: Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov (Russia)
PJ KwongPJ is a self-proclaimed Word Broker who goes by the motto: I read them. I write them. I speak them. A degree from the University of Toronto studying Modern Languages has been put to good use as a bilingual PA announcer for, among other things, the last 5 Olympic Games, the FIFA U-20 2007 Men's World Cup and numerous international figure skating events since 1993.
Working as a figure skating coach for the last 25+ years led to commentating opportunities from CTV/TSN, ABC, Tokyo Broadcasting, CBC, Fuji TV, Seoul Broadcasting and CCTV among others. CBC has been home to Pj's skating voice, writing and commentary opinions since 2007. She would tell you that although working in skating is where her passion lies; she is the voice of lots of commercial projects, a blogger on her own site, a public speaker and with "Taking The Ice: Success Stories from the World of Canadian Figure Skating" a published author. You want opinions? She's got them. Follow her on Twitter to see.