Despite the absence of several big-name athletes, these post-Sochi ISU World Figure
Skating Championships offer the opportunity for future
Olympic champions to make their presence felt.
Editor's Note: CBC Sports is releasing a pair of preview shows for the ISU World Figure Skating Championships on Tuesday. Watch them on CBCSports.ca at 2 p.m. ET and 6 p.m. ET, and on CBC Television at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time.
A full broadcast and streaming schedule for the entire event is available here.
Despite the absence of several big-name athletes, I'm one of those quirky types who really enjoys what these post-Olympics ISU World Figure Skating Championships have to offer: namely, the opportunity for future Olympic champions to make their presence felt.
It's also a chance for redemption. Those skaters who failed to deliver in Sochi get the chance to make good on their potential this week in Saitama, Japan.
More's the pity that Olympic pairs champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov won't be competing, because I love watching them skate, but it won't take away from Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy aiming for their fifth world title.
Their keen disappointment at their second consecutive Olympic bronze medal in Sochi can be somewhat remedied with a title here, which is well within their reach. They are outstanding technicians with strong material that they just need to perform well. If they do, they can stay ahead of their closest rivals, Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, the Olympic silver medallists.
In the women's event, neither Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova of Russia nor silver medallist Yuna Kim of South Korea will be in Saitama, which leaves Italy's Carolina Kostner the opportunity to achieve a second world title.
Kostner's Olympic bronze medal has to go a long way to helping her feel confidence in what I have always felt: she is a huge talent, and with Lori Nichol's beautiful choreography to back her up, she is the woman to beat in my mind. But I don't think it will be easy. Skaters like American Gracie Gold, Russian phenom Julia Lipnitskaia, plus the European champion, two-time world champ and hometown favourite Mao Asada are equally determined to hit the top spot.
Ice dance is always tricky to figure out at the best of times. At these world championships, the podium is wide open with Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White and silver medallists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir choosing to forego competing in Saitama.
That leaves several excellent teams vying for the podium. The Russian team of Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov are the Olympic bronze medallists who knocked it out of the park in Sochi and may be the team to beat on paper. In my mind, though, there is something special about French team Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, and I think their time is now. Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje delivered my favourite programs in performance in both the short and free dance segments in Sochi, and I think they are also looking to finish on the podium.
I can't go anywhere without people asking me what Olympic silver medallist and three-time reigning world champion Patrick Chan is up to. This much I know: he is taking a break and skipping worlds in favour of some down time and skating in shows.
What does this mean for the men's event in Japan? It's simple: Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu's roll will continue in Saitama, and I predict that if he skates as well as he has, he will take his first world title.
Javier Fernandez of Spain is a two-time European champion who didn't do what he had planned in Sochi, which was to earn an Olympic medal. With the month he has had to regroup, I think he can pose a real threat to Hanyu.
I will have my eye on a couple of Canadians as well. Kevin Reynolds can challenge for the podium if he repeats the excellence he displayed in his free performance in the Sochi team event. Nam Nguyen demonstrated his strength in taking the junior world title earlier this month and is looking to make his presence felt at the senior worlds for the first time.
Pj's gold-medal picks
Pairs: Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (Germany) Dance: Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat (France) Ladies: Carolina Kostner (Italy) Men: Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan)
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.