Men: The Quad Squad
This year’s Men’s event at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships will be as unpredictable as the other competitions this season, including the Grand Prix Final and Four Continents Championships. With so many difficult quadruple jumps being performed, the risk will be high and falls will be costly.
American Nathan Chen comes to Helsinki ready to make a golden splash in his World Championship debut. The 17-year-old’s determination to land a thrilling five quadruple jumps in his frees skate finally paid off at the US National and Four Continents Championships, where he won gold in amazing fashion. Though criticized for lacking the artistry of his world championship title-holding competitors, Chen’s win in Gangneung, Korea, signals that the judges feel his technical affluence compensates. His improvements artistically since last season have been enormous, and if he continues the momentum with clean performances in Helsinki, he’ll be a big favorite for the gold.
After raising the bar to world-record-scoring proportions last season, 2014 Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu has struggled to harness that same threshold this season. Though incorporating the quadruple loop this season and routinely landing the jump in his short program and free skate, a clean performance has thus far evaded the fan-favorite from Japan. The 22-year-old’s Prince-themed short program has generated mixed reactions, but a clean version of it in Helsinki could bring down Hartwall Arena and distance himself from the pack. With multiple quads planned in both programs, great skating skills, and performance quality, two clean performances from Hanyu could put the gold out of reach for anybody else with world-record scores.
Similar to his training mate Hanyu, so far this season, Javier Fernández from Spain has failed to channel the sensational skating he executed in Boston last year to threaten his North American and Japanese competitors. The Spaniard benefits from precisely-choreographed routines to “Malagueña” and an Elvis medley for the short and free programs, respectively, which captivate audiences with his charm and charisma. Without the same technical prowess of the others, given he attempts three quadruples in the free skate as opposed to four or five, the 25-year-old will need to be foot perfect to three-peat here in Helsinki. He’s proven before that he can pull it off when the focus is on the other top men.
Japan’s Shoma Uno is itching to break free from his compatriot’s shadow, and this season, the 19-year-old is getting closer and closer to that feat. Determined to climb the rankings with a consistent quadruple flip this season, Uno upped his game even more by adding the quadruple loop to his arsenal, as well. Medaling at all of his competitions this season, the fiery skater is poised to redeem his seventh-place Worlds debut finish in Boston with a medal here in Helsinki. If he can manage the quadruples with his intricate programs, including a feisty tango free skate, Uno may be “numero uno” when the dust has settled.
In his second season since coming back to competition, Canadian Patrick Chan is approaching the World Championships coming off another up-and-down season. After a coaching change to Marina Zueva’s camp at the top of the season, Chan crawled closer to finally breaking 100 points in his short program at the Grand Prix Final (99.76) in December. Although his free skate was error-filled, he managed to land the quadruple Salchow for the first time, a new element for the 26-year-old this season. Despite his unparalleled skating skills and mesmerizing free skate (choreographed by David Wilson), the 2014 Olympic silver medalist will need to deliver clean performances here in Helsinki if he hopes to win a medal.
China’s Boyang Jin capitalized on Chan’s and Uno’s free skate flops in Boston last year to clench the bronze medal, punctuated by his textbook quadruple Lutz jump. After the glory of being China’s first men’s world medalist, the 19-year-old has battled to medal this season while he pursues a free skate with five quadruple jumps. With animated routines to ‘Spiderman’ by Michael Buble in the short and La Strada in the free skate, Jin has continued to develop his components this season and will be among the very best skaters here in Helsinki.
Other skaters to watch are USA’s Jason Brown, Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada and Maxim Kovtun, Misha Ge from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten, China’s Yan Han, and Michal Březina of the Czech Republic.