It has been a long couple of weeks, during which I have discovered that I am ostensibly enough of an adult that people want to do things like grant me a home loan and hire me for paid work, despite the fact that my hair is three different colors on my driver’s license, my passport, and my actual head. I am also so tired of everyone’s program music that by the time I got to the men’s short program, I hit the mute button in the IceNetwork window and fired up the YouTube playlist of summer jams that I have been compiling. I watched the men’s short the evening after it occurred, because see above, plus there was a double episode of Survivor on Wednesday night, and I need very badly for Zeke Smith to triumph over transphobia and win a million dollars. So I am rating each program on 1) how well the athlete performed his technical elements, 2) how glad I am that I will never have to see his short program again (dear everybody, the Olympics are coming, please get new choreography), 3) how well his performance lined up with the arbitrary music that came out of my speakers while he skated, and 4) how adorable his teammates were in the kiss and cry afterward.
If you were looking for serious analysis, dude, it’s the freaking World Team Trophy. Team France are dressed as Minions. None of the world medalists in ice dance bothered to show up. The word “Presentation” was misspelled in the score graphic for the entirety of the short program. I am approaching this event with exactly the amount of gravitas that it demands.
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.
The men were a hot mess at Russian Nationals, which makes for fun viewing in the moment but lingering worry in the long run.
Russia has more talent in men’s singles than it knows what to do with, but the Russian men’s program is going through a bit of a disaster phase. Despite a long history as a powerhouse of men’s skating, Russia only got to send one man to the 2014 Olympics, and they’ve only scraped their way back to two World Championships slots since. No Russian man even came close to qualifying for the senior-level Grand Prix Final; it was the only discipline with no Russians present. Russian guys cleaned up in juniors, winning four of the seven Junior Grand Prix events and barely missing out on a podium sweep at the Junior Grand Prix Final, and they had plenty of success on the Challenger Series circuit. But at the highest level of competition, Russia keeps falling short.
One big problem is consistency. Many of the top Russians have beautiful quad jumps on their best days, but those quads are so unreliable that any successful attempt feels like a pleasant surprise. While Russian coaches seem to have taken some measures to address poor stamina, there are still too many guys who fizzle out after the second minute of their free skate. The Russian team has also had to adjust to more rigorous program components scoring; gone are the days when Evgeni Plushenko could jump and wink his way to Olympic gold with scarcely any challenging transitional moves. All of these factors justified a rebuilding period, but we’re now at the point where the construction delays are cause for concern. The men were a hot mess at Russian Nationals, which makes for fun viewing in the moment but lingering worry in the long run.