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 US Nationals Field Guide: Championship Men Part 1

I want them all to skate brilliantly, and I know most of them are going to screw up.

Jason Brown skates his free program at the 2016 NHK Trophy.

We have reached the pinnacle of these field guides – in my mind, at least. The ladies are the headliners in figure skating, which pleases me as a feminist, but no discipline fires up my fannish passions or depletes my booze reserves as much as men’s singles. In what I’m certain is a gift from the skating gods to me personally, the senior men’s field is also the largest one at Nationals this year, with so many athletes earning a bye through the qualifying rounds that there are a total of 21 men competing.

And that’s with one big name out of the running. For the third year in a row, the reigning men’s national champion will not return to defend his title. Jeremy Abbott took a break in 2015, which might or might not be permanent; Jason Brown bowed out in 2016 after re-aggravating a back injury. Now, in the middle of one of the most successful seasons of his long career, Adam Rippon has broken his foot and will be off the ice for several months. Rippon’s absence doesn’t just remove a front runner, but reshuffles the deck, opening the door for some young phenoms and hardworking mid-listers.

In case you’re just joining me, I’ve already written four field guides for this year’s Nationals:

  • Championship Ice Dance, with the highest level of talent across the board of any senior discipline
  • Junior Ice Dance, which will be as hotly contested as the senior event and almost as technically marvelous
  • Junior Men, the men’s event where you’re most likely to see a quadruple loop attempt
  • Junior Ladies, with some very small girls doing some very big jumps, plus an explanation of the four-point rating scale I’m using in all of the field guides

With so many competitors in the field, I’m dividing my men’s field guide into two posts. This one will cover the first 11 skaters, and the other will look at the remaining 10. I’m also diverging slightly from my usual order so that the top skaters will be more evenly distributed between the two posts. Instead of alphabetical order by last name, the skaters in this field guide are in alphabetical order by first name.

Since I’m writing about senior-level competitors, I’ve cranked up my sarcasm and my critical eye to full strength, and I’m going to be hard on almost everyone, even my favorites. I’m also in the delightful position of genuinely liking all of the top American men, and I have a soft spot for a lot of the guys lower in the ranks. I want them all to skate brilliantly, and I know most of them are going to screw up. On top of that, only two men can qualify for the World Championships, so there’s even less room for error than usual. It’s going to be brutal, and some very talented athletes will see their seasons end here.

With that in mind, I’m adding one more rating category for the senior men’s and ladies’ guides. The hierarchy I used for juniors and dance works for most of the skaters here, too: Front Runners for the athletes most strongly contending for the title, Dark Horses with a shot at the podium, On the Rise for the up-and-coming mid-listers, and Just Happy to Be Here for those who are thrilled just to have qualified. But in large fields like this one, there are a few who defy categorization, either because they’re so mercurial and unpredictable, or because their trajectory in the sport hasn’t followed a typical path. They’re wonderful at their best, excruciating at their worst, and lovable at all times. These skaters are Why I Drink.

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