2017 World Championships Field Guide: Men Part 3

Welcome to the third and final section of my guide to the men’s event at 2017 Worlds. We’re down to 36 competitors, as Han Yan confirmed on Saturday that a shoulder injury will keep him from participating, and China has not assigned an alternate in his place. (If you’re wondering what he needs his shoulder for, watch how skaters pull their arms in as they launch a jump – without that quick snap, you can’t rotate in the air.) This part of the field guide includes everyone else in the last third of the alphabet. If you haven’t read the previous two sections, check out Part One and Part Two before moving on to this one. Part One gives a more detailed explanation of how these field guides are structured, and how my five-point rating system works.

Since the start of the competition is closing in, I’ll keep the preamble short. On with the skaters!

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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.

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2017 World Championships Field Guide: Men Part 1

How is it time for Worlds already? It feels like just last week, I was booking a flight for Boston. Now, skaters are on their way to Helsinki to do it all over again. Although I won’t be there to witness the magic in person this year, I’ll still do my best to provide complete coverage of the biggest figure skating event of the season. And that starts with field guides, as many as I can finish before the competition begins.

With 10 days to go, there are 37 men on the roster for the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships, representing a total of 30 countries. As much as I’d love to trim things down the way I did for my World Junior Championships Men’s Field Guide, there’s no way to do it for senior-level Worlds. The minimum technical scores required are so high that any skater who competes at Worlds is capable of phenomenal jumps, and most of the guys on the list are fantastic performers to boot. So I’m splitting this into a series of three posts and covering every athlete in the event.

For the most part, this will look like the field guides I’ve written for U. S. Nationals and Junior Worlds. For each skater, I’ll provide basic background information, YouTube videos of recent performances, and a summary of his season so far. I’ll also analyze each athlete’s chances on a five-point scale. Four of the categories are the same as usual: Front Runners at the top, Dark Horses with an outside chance, Just Happy to Be Here who have already achieved their season goals by qualifying for Worlds, and Why I Drink for the wildcards so wild that I have no idea how they’ll perform. But since an athlete at Worlds is, by definition, at the top of his game, it doesn’t make sense to refer to any of these skaters as “on the rise.” Instead, I’ll rate the mid-range as On the Bubble: striving for more than just an appearance on the ice, but not on par with the top tier. I’m also adding one new section to each skater’s profile. Since quadruple jumps are such a defining aspect of men’s skating these days, I’ll discuss which quads each athlete is likely to attempt, and his chances of rotating and landing them.

This post features the first 12 men’s skaters in alphabetical order, which includes a lot of the heavy hitters. Here we go!

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2017 Junior Worlds Cheat Sheet: Ladies

I’ve run out of time to do a full analysis of the ladies like I did of the men’s and ice dance fields, but I have the list of athletes I was going to write about. With 45 entries on the ladies’ roster, I know we could all use a cheat sheet. Since almost half of those skaters won’t make it to the free skate, I’m not covering everyone – just the 20 I think are likely to perform well, or at least be fun to watch.

For each skater, I’ll provide a YouTube video, some basic info, highlights of their season so far, and a placement in one of my four categories. (I refuse to blame fourteen-year-old girls for Why I Drink, so that one’s off the table.) Front Runners are the strongest contenders for a medal, and Dark Horses are the athletes who could shake things up for the favorites. Skaters On the Rise aren’t shooting for the podium yet, but they’re looking to make a name for themselves. I’m leaving most of the Just Happy to Be Here crowd off this list, but I’ve included several who are enjoyable, unique, and memorable.

If you’re interested in the other disciplines (despite the fact that they’re mostly done skating), check out my Ice Dance Field Guide, Men’s Field Guide Part 1, and Men’s Field Guide Part 2.

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2017 Junior Worlds Field Guide: Ice Dance

Of the four disciplines at Junior Worlds this season, ice dance is the easiest to predict. Unless someone falls or in some other way has the worst skate of their lives, we know who’s going to be on the podium – although not necessarily the order in which they’ll place. Below those three golden teams, there are maybe five who will battle for placement within a second tier. And then there’s everybody else, way behind in terms of experience, technical difficulty, and scores. A lot of those lower-level teams are fun to watch, though, and some have promise to move up the ranks as they mature. So this field guide is unlikely to tell you anything you don’t know in terms of predictions, but it will almost definitely give you a sneak peek at some teams you’ve never watched before, and a sense of why you might not want to get a snack during their programs.

There are 31 teams on the roster for Junior Worlds this year, and I’m going to cover the top half: the 16 teams that I think are most interesting. As in my other field guides, I’ll avoid making predictions, but I will place each team in one of four categories that describes where they stand. (As much as McNamara & Carpenter’s inconsistency has raised my anxiety this season, I’m giving the “Why I Drink” designation a rest this time around.) Front Runners are the most likely to win a medal. Dark Horses could reach the podium on their best day. Teams On the Rise are looking for a top ten finish and increased opportunities in the future. And while I’m omitting a lot of the Just Happy to Be Here contingent, I’ll include some teams who are worth knowing for reasons other than scores or placement.

I’ve already posted field guides for the men’s event. If you’re an ice dance fan looking for more stress in your life, go check out Men’s Field Guide Part 1 and Men’s Field Guide Part 2. It’s going to be an especially unpredictable and entertaining event this year.

With no further ado, here are 16 ice dance teams to watch out for at 2017 Junior Worlds:

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2017 Junior Worlds Field Guide: Men Part 2

The World Junior Figure Skating Championships are less than a week away, and there’s a good chance you don’t even know who most of these kids are. In men’s singles, there are 44 competitors on the list, almost half of whom won’t even qualify to perform their free skates. This guide covers the 22 athletes most likely to make some kind of an impression in Taipei City: the medal contenders as well as the entertainers and the emerging talents. For the first half of the alphabet and a more detailed explanation of how this works, start with part 1 of my men’s field guide.

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2017 Junior Worlds Field Guide: Men Part 1

If you’re not following junior-level figure skating, the World Junior Figure Skating Championships is your excuse to start. For one thing, a lot of the athletes currently competing at the second-highest level will move up just in time to contend for the Olympics, so it’s worth getting to know them now. For another, the level of technical ability among the most accomplished juniors would be impressive in senior-level competition. Plus, it’s still almost a month until Worlds. You could curl up with your favorite skating reruns on YouTube or binge watch NCAA gymnastics –  not that this is how I plan to spend most of March – but it’s so much more fun to get way too emotionally invested in hyper-talented 15-year-olds.

Even most devoted skating fans are less familiar with juniors than seniors, so I’ve received a few specific requests for a field guide. I’m only too happy to oblige. The problem is, there are more than 40 competitors entered in both men’s and ladies’ singles at Junior Worlds, and the majority of them are Just Happy to Be Here. Since only the top 24 qualify to perform a free skate, almost half of the singles competitors will see their Junior Worlds experience end in under three minutes. Even ice dance is crowded, with 31 teams currently listed. For the sake of everyone’s sanity, I’m not covering every skater in the field. That still leaves me with so many men to write about that I’m splitting them into two posts. I’ve chosen them based on the scores they’ve achieved, as well as on the overall impressions they’ve left on me when I’ve watched them earlier in the season. I am almost definitely leaving out someone who will give a breakout performance in Taipei City, and the odds dictate that I’ll feature at least one athlete in each discipline who fails to qualify for the free skate.

I’m structuring these field guides in pretty much the same way as the ones I wrote a couple of months ago for U.S. Nationals. For each athlete, I’ll provide the best recent video I can find, a summary of their season so far, and a brief analysis of how I think they’ll do at Junior Worlds. Instead of making predictions, I’ll rate each athlete on a five-point scale that reflects where I think they stand. The Front Runners are the few skaters with the strongest chance of winning a medal, and the Dark Horses are the ones good enough to pull an upset. Skaters On the Rise are unlikely to threaten the podium but could break into the top 10 and, in some cases, put their countries on the figure skating map. While the most Just Happy to Be Here won’t make the cut for this guide, I’m covering a few skaters who will be memorable even though they won’t place particularly high. Finally, despite my reservations about blaming teenagers for my bad habits, some athletes are so unpredictable that I can only describe them as Why I Drink. Many of the skaters in that last category are among the most talented and entertaining in the field, so it’s not a ranking so much as an acknowledgement that some skaters are impossible to rank.

With no further ado, here are 11 men to watch at this year’s Junior Worlds, in alphabetical order.

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2017 US Nationals Field Guide: Championship Ladies Part 2

Ashley Wagner competes in the free skate at 2016 Skate America.

The senior ladies skate their short program tonight, and I’m here right under the wire with the second part of my field guide. If you’re looking for the first half of the alphabet, here’s part 1 of my Championship Ladies’ Guide. And if you’re really just joining us, I’ve written a full set of field guides for junior and senior ladies, men, and ice dance:

  • Championship Men Part 1 and Part 2, beginning their quad-off on Friday night
  • Championship Ice Dance, America’s best figure skating discipline, kicking off Friday afternoon
  • Junior Ice Dance, almost as good as the seniors, skating their free dance Friday morning
  • Junior Men, already full of surprises in the short program, and competing in the free skate Friday afternoon
  • Junior Ladies, with more promise at this level than we’ve seen in a few years and a free skate battle on Friday morning

Of the 19 ladies scheduled to compete at Nationals this year, this field guide covers the 10 in the second half of the alphabet. At the senior level, skaters are accustomed to a certain level of scrutiny (or need to learn to be), so I’m not shy with the sarcasm – but it always comes from a place of love. This year’s ladies’ field is especially volatile, so I don’t see any point in making predictions. Still, I’ve divided the skaters into five categories that give a sense of where they stand. Front Runners are the most likely to contend for a gold medal. Dark Horses are aiming for the podium and have a chance at stealing gold. Skaters On the Rise will push for a top 10 finish, a live free skate on NBC, and international competition assignments in the fall. Beyond that, there are plenty of athletes who worked hard to qualify to Nationals and are Just Happy to Be Here. The fifth category is for the skaters too difficult to rank: the inconsistent and unconventional, and the ones having uncharacteristic seasons. Those skaters are a big part of the fun of figure skating, and they’re Why I Drink.

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2017 US Nationals Field Guide: Championship Ladies Part 1

Gracie Gold skates her free program at the 2016 Trophee de France.

At long last – and with one day to go until they take the ice – we’ve reached what for most fans is the marquee event. From the casuals who only tune into NBC once a year to the lifers on the message boards who will wait eternally for the next Michelle Kwan, most people are in it for the ladies. Even if, like me, you’re a bigger nerd for other disciplines, the hype and excitement that surround the senior ladies make them more or less unskippable. And that makes it all the more important to know who all 19 of this season’s competitors are.

Since it’s likely you’re one of those casuals who googled your way in (and if you are, you’re an important part of why figure skating airs on network TV, so please stick around), you should know I’ve written a full set of field guides for the junior and senior competitors in ladies, men, and ice dance:

  • Championship Men Part 1 and Championship Men Part 2, the event I’m most emotionally over-invested in, with Nathan Chen planning some of the biggest jumps in the world and a herd of dark horses ready to swoop in if he falls on them
  • Championship Ice Dance, the most talent-rich field in American figure skating, and the USA’s best hopes for a World Championships medal
  • Junior Ladies, full of potential future stars, and jumps as difficult as what you’ll see at the senior level
  • Junior Men, a scrappy and quirky field that will feature this week’s only quadruple loop attempt
  • Junior Ice Dance, a field as stacked as the senior one, and possibly even more entertaining and unpredictable

This season’s Championship Ladies event features most of the big names, but it’s marked by a number of notable withdrawals. There are more top skaters missing here than in any other event. Polina Edmunds, the 2016 silver medalist and 2014 Olympian, has been out with injuries all year, and she has not recovered in time to compete. Tyler Pierce, who was 5th last year, has also been injured all season, as has Vivian Le, who would have made her senior Nationals debut after an accomplished junior-level career. The 2016 Junior National Champion, Emily Chan, had a disastrous free skate at Midwestern Sectionals and didn’t qualify for Nationals. An especially competitive field at Pacific Coast Sectionals meant that hyper-talented athletes like Olivia Serafini and Vanna Giang didn’t make the cut, either. Even more than most years, the technical ability of the 12 ladies who reached Nationals via successes at Regionals and Sectionals is exceptionally high, and several have a real shot at a medal.

As in my other field guides, I’m going to shy away from making exact predictions about how everyone will fare. Instead, I’m placing each skater in one of five categories. Four of those categories are a rating scale, with Front Runners most likely to contend for gold, Dark Horses with the podium (and maybe a title) in sight, On the Rise athletes looking for their turn on NBC and a spot in the international selection pool, and the Just Happy to Be Here crowd, for whom it’s an honor to reach this level of competition. The fifth group are the true wildcards, the ones who make this sport both pleasurable and stressful. Some have an excellent shot at a medal – and some are among my favorite American ladies – but I have no idea where they’ll end up in the final standings. Those skaters are Why I Drink.

Since there are 19 competitors in the senior ladies’ event, I’ve divided this field guide into two posts. This one features the first 9 skaters, alphabetically by last name. I promise to have the second one up before Thursday night.

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2017 US Nationals Field Guide: Championship Men Part 2

Nathan Chen in his free skate at the 2016 Grand Prix Final.

2017 Nationals have begun! While juvenile and intermediate champions earn the first medals of the year, I’m hustling to finish guides to the top-level skaters who will compete next weekend. Since there are 21 men in this year’s senior field, I’ve split my men’s field guide into two posts. The first half of the alphabet is over here. For this guide only, I’m alphabetizing by first name, to spread out the top contenders more evenly between the two. If you’re interested in reading about juniors and/or ice dance, I also have the following guides ready to go:

  • Junior Ladies, with some of the biggest jumps you’ll see in any ladies’ event, performed by some of the smallest humans
  • Junior Men, with 11 new reasons to mix a cocktail and watch through your fingers (one of the dark horse competitors, William Hubbart, has unfortunately withdrawn)
  • Junior Ice Dance, with most of last season’s World Junior podium angling for a repeat
  • Championship Ice Dance, with most of last season’s World podium in a hip hop dance-off

I’m more invested in the men’s event than any other, so I have lots to say about all of these guys, from those at the top of the field to the ones who will be proud to not place last. Although I recognize that some are quite young, senior-level skaters should be able to handle brutal honesty, especially since it’s all delivered with a heavy dose of admiration for what they’re capable of. I don’t do predictions, but I’m willing to divide the competitors into five categories that reflect where I think they stand. The Front Runners are those most likely to win; Dark Horses have a strong shot at a medal, maybe even a gold one. Skaters On the Rise are looking to build for future seasons and get their moment on NBC, while the Just Happy to Be Here crowd are fulfilling their season goals just by qualifying to Nationals. The last group are the ones who are too unpredictable or too far outside the conventional order to predict. They are why I love this sport, but also Why I Drink.

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