2017 World Championships Field Guide: Men Part 2

We’re a week away from Worlds, and skaters are starting to converge on Helsinki. There are 37 of them on the roster for the men’s event, and I’m determined to profile every one before their short program begins on Thursday, March 30. I’m a third of the way there, so if you started with this post, go back and read Part 1 of my Worlds Field Guide to the men’s event. It explains in more detail how I’m formatting these guides, and why it’s actually a compliment when I say an athlete is Why I Drink. It also has Yuzuru Hanyu, Javier Fernandez, and Nathan Chen in it, which might be why you’re here. Unless your goal is to get more information on the less familiar skaters in the field, in which case, you’ve come to the right place. This guide includes skaters 13-24 in alphabetical order, and most are guys you’ve never heard of unless you’re as obsessed as I am.

Boyang Jin

The Basics: Jin is 19 years old and represents China. He’s from Harbin, where he still lives and trains. His primary coach is Zhaoxiao Xu. He competed at Worlds for the first time in 2016 and won a bronze medal.

Season So Far: Jin got off to a disappointing start at Skate America, missing every jump in his short program and placing 5th overall. His next time out, at Cup of China, he nailed his short program but dropped behind Patrick Chan in the free skate for a silver medal. In an easy victory at the Chinese Championships, he became the national champion for the fourth year in a row. He raised his difficulty with a quadruple loop at Four Continents, but the risk backfired; he placed fifth. At the Asian Winter Games, Jin took silver behind Shoma Uno by a slim margin, losing mostly because of lower components scores.

The Quad Factor: Jin is one of the most accomplished jumpers in figure skating. He routinely lands quadruple lutzes, salchows, and toe loops in competition, and he’s on the way to adding a loop. His short program will almost definitely feature the lutz and the toe loop. If he follows the layout he’s competed for most of the season, his free skate will include a lutz, a salchow, and two toe loops, but he might throw in a loop as well.

Outlook for Worlds: Jin skated brilliantly at Worlds last year. Nobody jumps higher or with greater power, and he makes it look easy, to boot. He’s also made terrific progress in his interpretation and expression this season, with programs that play to his sunny, high-energy personality. But with great upgrades come great inconsistency, and Jin has struggled to time and mark his jumps, often misjudging his entry edges or distance from the boards. While he’s a lot of fun to watch these days, his edge control, posture, and extension remain unacceptably awkward for a skater of his stature. His components deficit is why he’s never won a senior-level international competition, and it’s why he’s a Dark Horse even though he’s a reigning world medalist.

Brendan Kerry

The Basics: Kerry is 22 years old and represents Australia. He’s from Sydney, but he lives near Los Angeles and trains with Tammy Gambill. This will be his fourth World Championships; his best result was 17th in 2016.

Season So Far: Kerry began his season with a fantastic free skate and a surprise 4th-place finish at the US Classic. While he skated well at both of his Grand Prix events, low components scores and struggles with stamina kept him down in the rankings, and he finished 10th at both Skate America and Trophée de France. He was so-so at Golden Spin, placing 5th, but excellent at Nationals, where he became Australian champion for the fifth time (and fourth in a row). Kerry missed a quad in his free skate at Four Continents, and along with a few other jump errors, that brought him down to 11th – nonetheless his best career placement at the event by far. But he was sublime at the Asian Winter Games, finishing a strong 5th and establishing momentum on his road to Worlds.

The Quad Factor: Kerry has to work hard to get his quads out: he can’t do them in combination and needs a lot of preparation. Still, he competes two types, a toe loop and a salchow, and both are fairly consistent. He’ll attempt one of each in his free skate. He’ll also include one quad in his short program, although it’s not clear which type he’ll pick for Worlds.

Outlook for Worlds: Kerry’s season has been his best ever, and unless he chokes horribly, he’s on the way to the highest Worlds results of his career. The quads help, as do his entertaining, personality-filled programs. Kerry has big trouble with stamina, though, often missing easier jumps late in his programs, and his speed wanes as he tires out. Since his fatigue is the last thing the judges see, that knocks down his components scores. It will be tough for him to break into the top 10, but not impossible. Even if he misses that benchmark, personal best scores and clean jumps will make a big statement as Kerry looks toward his second Olympic Games. If the “on the rise” designation suits anyone on the list, it’s Kerry, but I’ll follow my own rules and say he’s On the Bubble.

Jinseo Kim

The Basics: Kim is 20 years old and represents the Republic of Korea. He’s from Seoul, and he splits his training time between his hometown and Okayama, Japan. He’s competed at Worlds twice before, and his best result was 16th in 2014.

Season So Far: Kim started his season with a summer medal at the Asian Open, making some errors but taking silver. Mistakes dogged him again at the Lombardia Trophy, and he squeaked out sixth place despite a bevy of falls and popped jumps. He looked far more confident at Nationals, where he became the South Korean silver medalist for the third year in a row. At the Winter Universiade, Kim was only 14th in the short program, but he hung onto his quad in the free skate and shot up to 8th overall. After a 17th-place disaster at Four Continents that I’m sure he’d prefer to forget, Kim put forth a terrific effort at the Asian Winter Games, earning the highest overall score of his career on the way to a 7th-place finish.

The Quad Factor: Kim will attempt one quad toe loop in his free skate. He’s likely to get it all the way around and stay upright, but it probably won’t be pretty.

Outlook for Worlds: Kim is a quirky skater, and that has both advantages and drawbacks. On the positive side, he’s a charming performer, smiling like a ray of sunshine through two programs that suit him well. He gets a lot of height on his jumps, and lately, he’s shown great improvement in his stamina. However, Kim has some of the strangest jump technique I’ve ever seen, landing low in the knee while his rear end dips toward the ice. That habit knocks down his grades of execution across the board, and it also gives him less leeway when he has to correct himself in his check-out. As a result, he’s unlikely to break into the top 10 this year, although he’s On the Bubble and could become a crowd favorite.

Mikhail Kolyada

The Basics: Kolyada is 22 years old and represents Russia. He still lives in his hometown of St. Petersburg, where he’s coached by Valentina Chebotareva. At his Worlds debut last year, he placed a surprise 4th.

Season So Far: Kolyada was good but not great at his fall international competitions: 4th at the Finlandia Trophy, 4th at the Rostelecom Cup, and 5th at the NHK Trophy. At the latter, he attempted a quad lutz for the first time, although he fell and underrotated it. He still didn’t have his new jump under control at Nationals, although he got full rotation credit. Everything else was extraordinary on the way to his first Russian title. It was the same story, plus a few more mistakes, at Europeans, but he did more than enough for a bronze medal.

The Quad Factor: Kolyada has a strong quad toe loop and an unproven quad lutz. He’ll do the toe loop in his short program, in combination, and probably nail it. He’s most likely to try one lutz and one toe loop in his free skate, although he might play it safe and leave out the lutz, or go for broke and add a second toe loop.

Outlook for Worlds: Kolyada was an out-of-nowhere sensation at Worlds last year, arriving with little to prove and almost reaching the podium. Now, with a strong international reputation and the fans on his side, he carries the burden of making lightning strike twice. Fortunately, his components are a big weapon in his favor. A natural showman who makes even the judges feel like they’re in on the joke, Kolyada earns points not only for interpretation but for exceptional speed and tricky choreography. He sometimes loses his nerve and misses relatively easy jumps late in his programs, but his technique up through his quad toe loop is terrific. He’s a Dark Horse with a real shot at the podium, especially if he can find that quad lutz.

Maxim Kovtun

The Basics: Kovtun is 21 years old and represents Russia. Originally from Yekaterinburg, he now lives in Moscow, where he trains with Inna Goncharenko. He’s headed to his 5th consecutive Worlds this year, and he’s placed as high as 4th in 2014.

Season So Far: Kovtun looked great in the autumn at the Finlandia Trophy, nailing his short program and winning gold. At Skate America, on the other hand, he was a disaster in the short, placing dead last in the segment after popping two key jumps. He fought back with a great free skate but could only climb back to 7th place. At Cup of China, he was lackluster in both programs and settled for 7th again. It was the same story at the Russian Championships – nightmarish short program, strong but flawed free skate – and an overall bronze medal, ending his three-year streak of national titles. Kovtun finally got it together at Euros, though, landing some of the event’s most beautiful jumps and winning a silver medal.

The Quad Factor: Kovtun competes a quad toe loop and a quad salchow. He’ll almost certainly attempt one of each in both programs, although he might get brave and add a second salchow to his free skate.

Outlook for Worlds: One thing is for sure: Kovtun can’t afford to bomb his short program at Worlds. When he nails it, as he did at Euros, it’s a deliciously weird and challenging piece of choreography, and those difficult jumps are spectacular. But Kovtun has a habit of mis-timing his takeoffs, which leads to costly pops. That’s why he was only 18th at 2016 Worlds, and why it’s so hard to say where he’ll place this time. He’ll have to skate even better than he did at Euros to contend for the podium, but that’s not out of the question. On the other hand, if he loses his head like he did at Skate America, it’s possible that even his high components scores won’t be enough to qualify him through to the free skate. He’s one of the least predictable skaters in the field and a perennial member of the Why I Drink club.

Moris Kvitelashvili

The Basics: Kvitelashvili is 22 years old and represents Georgia. He was born in Moscow, where he still lives, and competed for Russia until 2016. His primary coach is Eteri Tutberidze. This is his World Championships debut.

Season So Far: Kvitelashvili had to take a year off from international competition in order to switch federations, so he began his season late. His first time skating under the Georgian flag, he won gold with three clean quadruple jumps at the Santa Claus Cup. He was even better at Europeans, performing a terrific 4th-place free skate and placing 6th overall, the highest ever for a Georgian man at Euros. He was a bit of a mess at the Challenge Cup but still did enough for a bronze medal.

The Quad Factor: Kvitelashvili competes two quads, a toe loop and a salchow. He’ll attempt the toe loop in his short program, then two toe loops and a salchow in his free skate.

Outlook for Worlds: Switching his affiliation to represent his parents’ home country was the best career decision that Kvitelashvili could have made. Competing for Russia, he got lost in the shuffle, and not just because the field is so much deeper there. Kvitelashvili’s forced year off from competition seems to have given him time to raise not only his technical difficulty but his confidence. He’s always been a fun performer with a lovely glide across the ice, but he owns it more than ever before. His consistency isn’t the greatest, even on on his easier jumps, and he telegraphs his hardest elements heavily, which drags down his grades of execution and his components scores. At the rate he’s progressing, Kvitelashvili might graduate into dark horse territory soon, but now he’s On the Bubble in the best way.

Larry Loupolover

The Basics: Loupolover is 19 years old and represents Azerbaijan. A Brooklyn native, he trains in New Jersey with Igor Lukanin. This is his World Championships debut.

Season So Far: Loupolover began his season skating juniors, finishing a lackluster 17th at Junior Grand Prix Ostrava. He did much better in the move up to the senior level, taking a bronze medal at Ice Star with career-best scores. He had greater technical trouble at the Denkova-Staviski Cup but nonetheless did enough for fourth place. He skated a strong short program at the Tallinn Trophy, but couldn’t back it up in the free skate, dropping from 7th in the short to 9th overall. At Euros, he popped a lutz in his short program, receiving zero credit for the element and failing to qualify through to the free skate.

The Quad Factor: Loupolover has been attempting a quad lutz all season but has never come close to landing it. He’ll give it a shot in both programs.

Outlook for Worlds: I’m about as convinced of Loupolover’s quad lutz as I was of Adam Rippon’s. The one time he hasn’t fallen hard on it, he’s popped it down to a double. But the sheer difficulty of that jump has raised Loupolover’s technical scores high enough to qualify him for Worlds for the first time, so who am I to judge? With minimal choreography and rough technique on his jumps and spins, Loupolover will have a hard time rising to even the middle ranks. It’s not impossible, though, especially if he hits that quad. He should be Just Happy to Be Here, although I suspect he’s striving for more.

Alexander Majorov

The Basics: Majorov is 25 years old and represents Sweden. He was born in St. Petersburg but has lived in Luleå, Sweden, since early childhood. He’s coached by his parents, Alexander Majorov Sr. and Irina Majorova. This will be his sixth World Championships; his highest placement was 18th in 2013.

Season So Far: Majorov was just okay in the early autumn, placing 9th at the Finlandia Trophy and 4th at Coupe de Nice. A freak nosebleed at the Rostelecom Cup destroyed his free skate, and he came in last through no fault of his own. Majorov regrouped after that, however, posting a personal best score at the Warsaw Cup on the way to the highest-profile gold medal of his career. He continued his streak of success with a gold medal at the NRW Trophy and his fourth Swedish national title. At the Winter Universiade, he took a surprise bronze medal in a tough field. He couldn’t keep it up at Europeans, though, and fell to 11th place overall.

The Quad Factor: Majorov competes a quad toe loop and will attempt one in each of his programs.

Outlook for Worlds: After a rough couple of years – he sat out 2016 Worlds with a stress fracture, and his father is recovering from leukemia – Majorov’s performances this winter seem to reflect a positive shift in his approach to skating. The biggest improvement has been in his stamina, both physical and mental, with few outright meltdowns and many admirable recoveries from errors that might have knocked him out in the past. He’s shown greater consistency in his hardest jumps, too. Majorov can’t gain much traction from components scores, as he’s slower and less polished than many of his competitors, and trouble with some of his mid-range triple jumps means his base technical value is relatively low even with the quad. His best results prove that he’s On the Bubble, but he’ll need to show that he can follow through at a high-stakes competition like Worlds.

Michael Christian Martinez

The Basics: Martinez is 20 years old and represents the Philippines. He comes from the Manila area and now lives primarily in California, where he trains with Viacheslav Zagorodniuk. This will be his third World Championships; his highest placement was 19th in 2016.

Season So Far: Martinez placed 6th at the Coupe de Nice and 5th at the Volvo Open, struggling to land jumps in the second half of his free skate in both events and scoring far below his best. He looked somewhat better at Four Continents, but he couldn’t keep up with this year’s challenging field and placed 14th. He skated well in the short program at the Asian Winter Games but once again lost control of his jumps in the free skate; he finished 9th.

The Quad Factor: Martinez has never attempted a quadruple jump in competition.

Outlook for Worlds: Martinez has accumulated a devoted fan base with entertaining performances and social media savvy, but he’ll probably disappoint them this season. He’s faced coaching changes and general upheaval throughout the year, and the lack of stability shows in his results. He doesn’t look as well trained as in past seasons, and he hasn’t upgraded his technical content at a time when skaters have to develop big jumps or become irrelevant. He’s also the kind of fun, showy skater who doesn’t incorporate the difficult connecting moves and demonstrations of basic skills that the judges look for, so his components scores stay low. It would be great to see him find his groove at Worlds, but after the season he’s had, he’s Just Happy to Be Here.

Graham Newberry

The Basics: Newberry is 18 years old and represents Great Britain. Born in Pennsylvania, he now lives in London. His primary coach is his father, Christian Newberry. This will be his World Championships debut.

Season So Far: The busiest man in figure skating has competed extensively as both a junior and a senior this season. He began with a pair of Junior Grand Prix events, finishing a so-so 12th at JGP St. Gervais and a solid 8th at JGP Tallinn. His skating got progressively stronger on a long tour of senior B competitions: 7th at the Lombardia Trophy, 2nd at the Denkova-Staviski Cup, 3rd at the Merano Cup, 4th at the Mentor Torun Cup, and 4th at the Challenge Cup. He saved his best for the big ticket events, though. At Europeans, he posted a career-best score and placed a solid 16th. On a day of nonstop perfect short programs at Junior Worlds, his was among the best; he was 10th in the segment and 15th overall, the highest Junior Worlds result for a British man since 2001.

The Quad Factor: Newberry has never attempted a quad in competition.

Outlook for Worlds: Newberry has established himself as no joke this season. Frequent competition has been a smart strategy for him, as he looks more poised and confident every time he takes he ice, and his scores bear that out. With relatively modest technical difficulty and choreography that’s fun but not particularly taxing, it will be hard for Newberry to contend with the powerful jumpers and seasoned showmen at Worlds. But if he performs a short program like the one at Junior Worlds, he could get surprisingly far, especially if others make mistakes. Newberry is Just Happy to Be Here for now, but he could become a much bigger deal in the future.

Ivan Pavlov

The Basics: Pavlov is 18 years old and represents Ukraine. He’s from Kiev, where he lives now, training with Dmitri Shkidchenko. He skated at Worlds for the first time in 2016 and placed 23rd.

Season So Far: Pavlov skated well at his first Junior Grand Prix assignment, in Ostrava, and placed 4th. He had more trouble a few weeks later at JGP Ljubljana, where he finished 7th. Moving up to seniors, he was spectacular at Ice Star, winning the first international gold medal of his career. He couldn’t repeat the magic at Coupe de Nice, where he was only 7th, or at the Winter Universiade, where he came in a dismal 15th. He was great at Nationals, though, picking up his second consecutive Ukrainian title. At Euros, he started off strong in both programs, then lost ground with jump trouble later in both segments, for a 14th-place finish.

The Quad Factor: Pavlov has not competed a quad this season.

Outlook for Worlds: Pavlov narrowly made the cut for the free skate in 2016, and he’ll have to work hard to repeat that accomplishment in this deeper, tougher field. Without a quad, and with loose technique on his triple Axel that makes it unreliable, he might not have the base value even if he skates an excellent short program. However, he proved at Ice Star that he can build a great score when he keeps his head, since his programs are crafted to earn him bonuses for difficult jumps in the second half. He also has impressive speed and body lines, which could help his components scores, although his transitions and musical expression aren’t as strong. On balance, he’s probably Just Happy to Be Here, but with some notable marks in his favor.

Javier Raya

The Basics: Raya is 25 years old and represents Spain. He’s from Madrid but lives in Toronto, where he trains with Joey Russell. This will be his third appearance at Worlds; his best result was 24th in 2012.

Season So Far: Raya placed a respectable 7th at the Autumn Classic and achieved the best free skate score of his career. He made more errors at the Merano Cup, but in an easier field, he came in 4th. He completed his set of upgraded personal bests at Golden Spin with his highest short program and overall scores to date, but he only placed 10th. After an easy silver medal at Nationals, his fourth, he finished 18th at Europeans.

The Quad Factor: Raya does not compete a quadruple jump.

Outlook for Worlds: Complain if you want that Raya only qualifies for Worlds as the recipient of the annual Javier Fernandez bonus slot for Spain. If it weren’t for Fernandez, Raya would, in all likelihood, be Spain’s lone representative. He has another kind of representation on his shoulders, too, as he’s the only out gay man in the field this year. Raya’s chief strengths are artistic: he’s an elegant and fearless performer, fond of playful music choices, and he makes himself memorable even when he doesn’t have the technical difficulty to keep up with the top scores. His triple Axel is looking more and more secure, and along with relatively high marks for components, that might be his ticket to the free skate. He’s Just Happy to Be Here, but not because he’s riding anyone’s coattails.

The men’s short program at the World Figure Skating Championships will start at 12:10 PM Helsinki time on Thursday, March 30, which is 5:10 AM in Chicago. The free skate begins at 10:50 AM on Saturday, April 1, or 3:50 AM in the Midwest. The event will stream live on IceNetwork for subscribers, and I’m sure the list of other ways to watch will be posted soon.

Next on The Finer Sports: the third and final installment of my Worlds field guide to the men’s event.

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