The 2011 ISU Four Continents figure skating championships wrapped up over the weekend. It was the 12th annual Four Continents event and the first time that a competition of this size and importance has been located in Chinese Taipei.
To say that this event had more than its fair share of twists and turns would be an understatement. The ice dance event marked the return to competition of Olympic and world ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
The Canadians took the lead after the short dance ahead of closest rivals Olympic and world silver medallists from the United States, Meryl Davis and Charlie White with defending Four Continents champions Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada in third place.
Dazzling debut to injury
Taking their position to start the free dance, everything looked as it should and Virtue and Moir started with speed, power and pizzazz. Things quickly changed. As soon as they completed the third element in their free dance, a challenging rotational lift, Virtue skated away from her partner while his surprised face seemed to plead with her to continue. She glided to the boards to talk to their coaches Marina Zueva and Igor Shpillband. Moir went to the referee to presumably make the request for what I call a "medical couple of minutes." He returned to Virtue and coaches, "the game was called" and Moir informed the referee that they were withdrawing. The team took their bows and left the ice.
After the fact, Virtue said that she had already been experiencing "tightness" in her left quad muscle before leaving home, which of course begs the question - why go? The answer to me is simple: when you're a competitor, you really need to compete.
At the end of the day, Davis and White earned the top spot, their teammates, U.S. national silver medallists, Maia and Alex Shibutani took the silver and from a shaky fifth place after the short dance, and Canadian champions Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier claimed the bronze. It has to be noted that once again one of the closest rivalries in skating today showed that less than a point separated Crone and Poirer from Canadian national silver medallists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who placed fourth.
Canadians shine in pairs
The defending world pair champions and Olympic silver medallists from China, Qing Pang and Jian Tong easily dominated the rest of the field to take their fifth Four Continents title. The silver medal was won by Canadian silver medallists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford who seemed to finally be able to deliver on the promise of their potential, moving up from third to second overall. Teammates and national bronze medallists Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers were able to hang on for the bronze after finishing in second place in the short program.
The ladies event was won by the 2007 world champion Miki Ando of Japan, who has been known to struggle in term of consistency in competition. Such was not the case in Taipei City where Ando won not only the short but the free in a commanding exhibition of speed, prowess and determination ahead of defending world champion and Japanese rival Mao Asada.
Asada, on her way to taking the silver medal, showed that her patience and hard work in refining her jump technique is paying off with an increase of over 30 points in her season's best score. American phenom Mirai Nagasu's free program was of the highest quality and moved her ahead of teammate Rachael Flatt to take the bronze.
Next generation on the way
The men's event was dominated by defending world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Daisuke Takahashi of Japan. Winning both segments, he posted a new season's best score for the free program. Keep your eyes open for reigning 16-year-old junior world champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan who took the silver in a display that definitely puts him squarely in the mix of the new generation of skaters making their mark.
American Jeremy Abbott may have failed to qualify for the U.S. world team this year, but ended his season on a high note by taking the bronze medal at the Four Continents.
Do you have improvements to suggest for this page?