It's a great time to be a skating fan, especially with the ISU world figure skating championships in Boston.
I feel that the sport offers something for everyone in terms of preferences that run the gamut from purely artistic to intensely athletic.
Competition begins with the ice dance short program on Wednesday at 10:45 a.m. ET, followed by the men's short at 6:15 p.m. ET.
Nowhere will the athleticism be more important than with the pairs. Defending world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada have been leading the way with outstanding individual and pair elements, like the side-by-side triple Lutz jumps and a throw quad Salchow.
The problem with leading the way is you light the path for others to follow and potentially pass you. Last season, Duhamel and Radford were unstoppable; this season, things have been a bit more challenging.
Look for their biggest competition to come from a number of different teams starting with Russian rivals Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov who beat them at the Grand Prix Final. They also need to watch out for returning Olympic and former world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia, along with the dazzling Chinese team of Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, who were world silver medallists in 2015.
During a different partnership, Aliona Savchenko won five world titles, and is looking to regain that former glory with new partner Bruno Massot under the German flag. My lean is towards the Canadians because in my observation, when their backs are against the wall, they do what they need to do to succeed.
Something in common
The top three teams in ice dance have a couple of things in common: they are all national champions and have each won a significant title this season. France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron won their second European title and are looking to prove that last year's world title was the start of a major career and not a one-hit wonder.
Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje won their second consecutive Grand Prix Final in December and have separated themselves from a packed field as the consummate storytellers. American siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani have been waiting in the wings, trying to figure out a way back on to the podium since their bronze world medal in 2011. The Shibutanis' free dance to Coldplay is a tour de force, helping them to earn their Four Continents win.
Which way to go? Frankly, all three teams are worthy of the title. The scores are of no help as the teams are all within a couple of points of each other.
Russian close to sure thing
I think that Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva is as close to a sure thing as we can get in figure skating. Her consistency and technical prowess are really quite wonderful. Medvedeva has the third highest score of all time. She has only been beaten once this season and that was by team mate Elena Radionova at the Cup of Russia.
Aside from that, it has been gold for Mevedeva at the Skate America Grand Prix, the Grand Prix Final and the European Championships. Medvedeva could make history by winning the world title in the subsequent season after winning a world junior title, which she did in 2015.
The 2015 world silver medallist and current Four Continents champion, Satoko Miyahara, is a study in consistency and could cause an upset.
Hanyu's title to lose
Simply said, the men's title is Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu's to lose. He has set the bar as high as it ever has been with a new world-record score of 330.43, which he set in December on his way to winning the Grand Prix Final. Hanyu's biggest problem is the long line of talented men hoping for him to blink, because that is what it will take for someone else to step in.
After all, the men's event includes three world champions: Hanyu, defending world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain and three-time world champion Patrick Chan. Looking further down the list, the talent goes on to include China's jumping prodigy Boyang Jin and Japan's Shoma Uno. Any of the names on this list could be the next world champion. More than any of the other disciplines, a setback in the short program could very well take a skater out of the race.
Pj's Podium Picks:
Men: Yuzuru Hanyu JPN
Ladies: Evgenia Medvedeva RUS
Pair: Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford CAN
Dance: Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje CAN
World figure skating championships on CBCSports.ca
- Ice dance short program, 10:45 a.m. ET
- Men's short program, 6 p.m. ET
- Ladies short program, 11:55 a.m. ET
- Ice dance free program, 7:15 p.m. ET
- Pairs short program, 1 p.m. ET
- Men's free program, 6:30 p.m. ET
- Pairs free program, 12:40 p.m. ET
- Ladies free program, 6:45 p.m. ET
- Gala, 1:45 p.m. ET