Road To The Olympic Games


European figure skating championships provide clues for upcoming worlds

For Canada's top figure skaters, the European championships presented a chance to find out exactly what they'll be up against at the worlds in March, writes Pj Kwong.

Canadians learn more about their opponents

Javier Fernandez won his fourth European gold and broke the championships' record for total score, serving notice that he's a contender for the world title. (Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

Looking at the results of any competition is fun. I love analyzing what happened and trying to figure out what impact, if any, those results will have down the road at the world figure skating championships in Boston in March.

The European championships in Bratislava, Slovakia offered their own insights into what it takes to be a champion. Nowhere is this more evident than for the men. Spaniard Javier Fernandez earned his fourth European title and broke the European record for total score. As the reigning world champion, every competition with a check mark in the win column should go a long way in the confidence-building department.

But will it be enough in Boston?

Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu posted a record score at the NHK Trophy in the fall, only to break his own record two weeks later with a score of 330.43 when he took the title at the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, skating two clean and outstanding programs.

When I look at Fernandez's European score of 302.77 and Patrick Chan's recent score of 292.00 at the Canadian nationals,  I remind myself that both men also skated two clean and outstanding programs. 

Although there is a gap in the overall scores, Hanyu, Chan and Fernandez are all neck and neck as far as the components scores are concerned. 

So what's the difference between them? 

Hanyu's heavy duty technical arsenal has him 25-plus points ahead of his next closest rival, Fernandez. Is there enough time between now and worlds at the end of March for Fernandez and/or Chan to beef up their programs technically? All things being equal, at a "clean skate" worlds technical superiority will be the deciding factor.

Canada's Duhamel, Radford in tough

Based on the results in Bratislava, other contending Canadians will have their work cut out for them at worlds.

Reigning world pair champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were satisfied at the end of the Grand Prix Final with a silver medal and a score of 216.67 -- about 13 points behind Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov.

Defending European champions Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, along with two-time European silver medallists Stolbova and Klimov, withdrew from the European championships with injuries, leaving a huge void to be filled.

2014 Olympic champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov reclaimed their European title after a season off while Trankov recovered from surgery. Volosozhar and Trankov held the title consecutively from 2012 to 2014 and their impressive score of 222.66 tells me they are back with a vengeance. Nothing was for sure heading into Europeans. The champions were able to hold off five-time world champion Aliona Savchenko and new partner Bruno Massot, who won silver at their first European championships.

If Duhamel and Radford need to focus their energy on anything, it should be the short program, because I believe that's where this year's world pairs title will be won or lost.

Weaver, Poje gain intel

If the scores are any indication in the dance event, Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje are on the right track. When they won the Grand Prix Final in December, it was with a score of 182.66 and two dynamite programs.

Reigning world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are finally back on the skating stage. They were sidelined by a concussion for Papadakis and are playing catch-up. Their final score at Europeans was a solid 182.71. If there is a chink in the world champions' armour it is in the short dance, where they came second in Bratislava. 

For Weaver and Poje, this vulnerability could be the most valuable piece of information they get all season.

Chartrand knows her target

Wunderkind Evgenia Medvedeva led Russian women to a clean sweep of the podium for the second year in a row.  For Medvedeva, winning the gold in her first try at Europeans and in her first season as a senior further illustrates the kind of talent she possesses.

Canadian champion Alaine Chartrand's all-time personal high score of 201.99 at the recent nationals was one of the few times that a Canadian woman had broken the 200-point barrier.

Chartrand is the kind of skater who needs something to aim for. Medvedeva's personal best score of 222.54 at the Grand Prix Final may be just the kind of target that Chartrand needs.

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