So it’s World Team Trophy week.
Sorry I can’t inject that sentence with any more excitement and still be true to myself…especially when thinking about this event in relation to the Olympic “team event” that is reportedly making its debut in Sochi. Certain words take the place of enthusiasm; words like “blech” and “ridiculous” and “incredibly unneccessary.” (Although the ISU got smart this week and has made WTT available to view free worldwide, unless you happen to live in Japan (host country) or South Korea… read more here. )
But the skaters competing in Japan later this week are simply there to give their best shot to their final (final) event of the season, so perhaps it’s best to continue taking a quick look back at where most of them have just been—Worlds:
Daisuke Takahashi: Is it out of line to say that many considered (silver medalist) Dice-K the unofficial winner in Nice? If so, let me preface any apology with the fact that the Examiner’s Jackie Wong called his free skate the #1 program of the entire competition. WTT will allow us to witness one more showdown—of sorts—between these two before they call it a wrap for the season.
Takahiko Kozuka: Unfortunately Kozuka was the odd man out in Nice in more ways than one… Dice-K took the #2 spot he’d occupied last year, Hanyu claimed bronze, and Kozuka had a subpar week that left him finishing all the way down in 11th (his worst finish in his five years of competing at Worlds). Nonetheless, Kozuka was assigned to WTT so he’ll get a chance to redeem himself in front of the home crowd.
Akiko Suzuki: I may have said it before, but I’ll say it again anyway… if Ashley Wagner had to lose World bronze to anyone in the world, I couldn’t be happier that it’s Suzuki. Her love of life and sport overtake her presence when she’s out on the ice, making her a consistent joy to watch. And in case you were wondering (like I was), this article confirms that she plans to remain Olympic-eligible through 2014.
Kanako Murakami: Her season didn’t get off to a roaring start (4th and 6th place at her two GP assignments), but Murakami soldiered on, finishing in the Worlds Top 5 when all was said and done.
The same cannot be said for teammate and former World Champ Mao Asada, who finished 6th for the second year in a row and will not be involved in WTT. If you’re interested in reading more about Asada, might I suggest this article courtesy of my pal Vlad at the World Skating Blog?
(Oh, and speaking of struggling well-known skaters… count Alissa Czisny among those that are NOT retiring anytime soon, as per this article from last week. But I digress.)
Takahashi/Tran: With Japan’s first-ever world medal still burning a hole in their collective pockets, T&T could make Japan a stronger factor than usual in this part of the competition.
Reed/Reed: After climbing as high as 13th at last year’s Worlds, the Reeds took a serious enough nosedive this year to keep them from even qualifying for the final (finishing in 24th).
Patrick Chan: He’s making headlines (again) this week because Christy Krall has resigned from his coaching team, as you may have heard by now. But Chan remains the World champ, and occasionally snarky skating fans like myself are curious to see what sort of odd-freaky-fall-mishap might plague said Champ in this final event.
Kevin Reynolds: I was particularly happy for Reynolds at Worlds. A 12th place finish was not his best-ever, but his performances were well above this year’s average for himself. The fact that it just barely nabbed a third spot for the Canadian men next year was a well-deserved bonus.
Cynthia Phaneuf: On the other hand, Phaneuf could really use something to cheer about. Two years ago she finished the season #5 in the world; this year she essentially had to do a “skate-off” to simply get back to the world team—and she didn’t make it. Will WTT prolong her agony, or cast a little of it away?
Amelie Lacoste: On yet another hand… Lacoste WON that 4 CC “skateoff” that earned her a first-ever trip to Worlds, but was disappointed with a 16th place finish. Can the current Canadian ladies champ team up with Phaneuf and shake the doldrums out of their corner of the team?
Duhamel/Radford: Finishing 5th was the best these two have done yet at Worlds (and the best Duhamel has done with two different partners!) Can they hold up their end of Team Canada at this event? Stay tuned!
Virtue/Moir: Edging out Davis/White surely wouldn’t mean as much here as it did at Worlds… but I doubt that’ll keep V/M from trying. Look for yet another dancing cagematch between the top 2 teams on the planet.
We’ll look at the Russian Contingency ASAP (read “before WTT begins if at all possible".)