2010 World Figure Skating Championships: Men’s Preview

The 2010 ISU World Championships will take place in Torino, Italy, from March 20-29, 2010 at the Palavela. More than 200 skaters representing more than fifty member nations will skate in the competition.

The Palavela has played host to the 2005 European Championships, the 2006 Olympic Games, and the 2007-08 Grand Prix Final. Medalists from those events who will compete in this Championships include Brian Joubert  (2005 European silver medalist), Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang (2006 Olympic silver medalist), and Kim Yuna, Mao Asada, and Carolina Kostner (2007-08 Grand Prix Final medalists).

The men’s field is the most depleted in the competition, missing four of the top six skaters who competed at the Olympic Games last month.  Champion Evan Lysacek withdrew in order to be a part of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars competition, choosing to rumba and waltz rather than defend his World title.  Silver medalist Evgeni Plushenko withdrew recently under a cloud of secrecy except for an explanation that his doctors told him that he needs two weeks rest.  Switzerland’s Stéphane Lambiel announced his retirement following the Olympic Games, and American Johnny Weir withdrew citing a lack of training time leading up to the event.

That leaves Daisuke Takahashi as the favorite to win the gold medal in Torino, which would be the first for any Japanese man in history.  Takahashi is arguably the most talented skater left in the field, and could run away with this competition if the others don’t watch out.

From start to finish, Takahashi doesn’t waste a fraction of a section of time in both of his programs, and he is brilliant even when he has an off day on the ice.  Takahashi need not take any unnecessary risks in Torino including attempting a quadruple jump.  The Olympic bronze medalist should take a page out of the book of Evan Lysacek and skate the cleanest programs that he can.  A clean Takahashi cannot lose among this field of competitors.

Canada’s Patrick Chan believes that winning the title is the next logical step in his career, and he is planning on doing just that in Torino.

“After winning silver last year, there’s no question why I shouldn’t be striving for a gold medal,” Chan said in a teleconference earlier this week.  “After the Games were over, this huge weight came off my shoulders, people just left me alone and I really got to do what I wanted to do.”

Chan’s strength is his skating skills, and they are among the strongest in the competition, but his weakness is the high scoring jumps like the triple axel that has plagued him all season.  To win in Torino, Chan understands that he must not take anything for granted, and he also realizes how important a good showing is in order to set him up for a great four years of skating leading into Sochi 2014.

“I want to go out with a real bang and show people what I am capable of doing, Chan said.  “I want to show the people who’ve been doubting me …that I’m not just sitting around and relying on my skating skills to help me. I really want to be the best, and who knows, there might be someone coming up the next couple years with just as good skating skills as me, so I can’t really rest on my laurels, I have to keep pushing myself.”

American Champion Jeremy Abbott is due for a strong performance, and that could come in Torino.  Abbott’s coach Yuka Sato has a World title under her belt, and could mentor the notoriously competition shy Abbott into a World medalist.

Like Chan and Takahashi, Abbott is one of the most talented skaters in the world in terms of skating skills, but in his case, Abbott might be smart to go for a quadruple jump in Torino to build a better case for himself.  The 2009 Grand Prix Final Champion might have spent all of his nerves on his previous three competitions that could bode well for him this week.  The key to Abbott’s success in Torino will be his short program.  If he can get through that, then he has a great shot at a medal.

Takahashi’s teammates Nobunari Oda and Takahiko Kozuka cannot be counted out in any competition, and could very well end up on the podium in Torino.  In fact, a Japanese sweep though unlikely is possible.

Oda has been knocking on the door of a World Championships medal since he burst onto the scene in 2005-06, but he has recently stalled at seventh place in major international events.  This season with the depleted ranks, Oda heads into the World Championships as the third highest finisher from the Olympics.  This competition will be a good test of Oda’s competitive drive, and could be the beginning of him finally realizing his potential.

Kozuka on the other hand is still relatively new to the world scene, and is climbing up the ranks each season.  The Japanese bronze medalist is a solid performer, and that is always rewarded in a season as long as this one.  Kozuka should, at a minimum, skate in the final warm up group for the freeskate, and could end up on the podium with his teammate, Takahashi.

Americans Ryan Bradley and Adam Rippon hope to make good use of their opportunity to compete in the World Championships as alternates for Lysacek and Weir.  Bradley, who will compete with a broken toe, will skate in his second World Championships competition after finishing in 15th place back in 2007.  Bradley has announced that he will still attempt his trademark quadruple jumps in Torino despite his injury, and could make a big splash as a result.

Rippon is still riding the high of his come from behind victory in January at the Four Continents Championships, and could play the role of spoiler in his World Championships debut.  His score in Jeonju would have placed him in 9th at the Olympic Games even with a less than stellar short program.  Rippon has an elegance and ease that the judges love to reward, and clean performances in Torino could thrust him onto the world stage.

Other men to look out for include France’s Florent Amodio, the Czech Republic’s Michal Březina, and Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten, all of whom are being touted as part of the next generation in men’s skating.  Additionally, former World Champion Brian Joubert will compete in Torino after a bitterly disappointing 16th place in Vancouver.  Joubert has not been in top form all season, but he can never be counted out at the World Championships.

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