Next week the World Championships begin in Goteborg! Here's the scoop on what's going down on Swedish ice!
In Pairs, three teams have been dominant this season and I see no reason why they wont continue to be the dominant teams at Worlds. Savchenko and Szolkowy of Germany won just about everything they've entered this season (slight hiccup at Cup of Russia) and have to be the clear front runners. Close behind are the top two Chinese teams of Zhang and Zhang and Pang and Tong. Pang and Tong did well during the Grand Prix and recently won the Four Contients Cup while the Zhangs are the only team to have beaten the Germans this season. I gather that these three teams may well comprise the podium at Worlds. Other teams to watch are the Canadians Dube and Davison and the Russian teams of Mukhortova and Trankov as well as Kawaguchi and Smirnov.
Amongst the ladies, Mao Asada of Japan has to be the clear front runner. She recently won the Four Continents Cup with a near flawless program and has been the most consistent skater this season. Yu-Na Kim of S. Korea has also been solid this season but has been plagued by injury as of late and it is uncertain if she will be 100% for the competition. Reigning champ Miki Ando, also from Japan, has had an up and down season but will certainly be in the mix. Carolina Kostner of Italy has been quite consistent this season, medaling in all her competitions this season (including a bronze at the Grand Prix Final and a win at the European Championships) and looks to be a contender. Joannie Rochette of Canada has also looked strong this season and most recently took silver at the Four Continents Cup. Wild card entry this season is 2006 Champ Kimmie Meissner. From Hero to zero this season she's lucky to even be at the event after finishing 7th (yes...7th!) at this year's U.S. Nationals...you'd like to think she'd be in the mix, but who knows? Other skaters to watch include Sarah Meier, Yukari Nakano, Kiira Korpi, and Ashley Wagner. Also, the U.S. is also trying to qualify three ladies to worlds next year in L.A.
Ice Dance will probably be the closest competition in the event. If you have to say there is a front runner you 'd give it to the American Team of Belbin and Agosto. They have been clean and very consistent with a brilliant Free Dance and won the silver at the Grand Prix Final. Russian team of Domnina and Shabalin, who won the Grand Prix Final and Europeans, have withdrawn from the World Championships as Maxim has reinjured his knee in preparations. While the Americans have their best shot ever at the title it will not be easy. The French team of Delobel and Schoenfelder have been near even with the Russians and Americans all season and will put up a fight for the title. Also in the mix will be Canadians Virtue and Moir who recently won the Four Continents Cup. My best guess, those three teams will be the podium. Other teams to keep an eye on include Khoklova and Novitski, Davis and White, Pechalat and Bourzat, and Faiella and Scali.
The mens event might be hotly contested or a run away, either way it will be exciting! Easy front runner is Japan's Daisuke Takahashi. He's just buried his competition this season, especially at the recent Four Continents Cup, where he achieved the highest score ever! Two Quads, solid triples, amazing footwork (especially his short program) tough spins, he has it all! Also vying for the title is Grand Prix Final Champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland. Lambiel, however, has struggled with consistency on his jumps, especially the triple axel. Johnny Weir of the United States will be in the mix. Weir turned in solid wins in China and Russia earlier in the season and had a strong performance at Nationals. Evan Lysacek won Nationals against Weir in the now infamous tie breaker but has withdrawn from Worlds due to a skate blade issue and slight forearm and elbow injuries. He was replaced by Abbott. Tomas Verner from the Czech Republic has crept into the top group of contenders this season with his strong showing at NHK and his win at Europeans. Two solid performances from him could get him to the podium. France's Brian Joubert had to withdraw from Grand Prix Paris due to viral infection and has had a hard time coming back. He looked tired and unprepared at Europeans. If he's used the past month and a half to get back to form, he will be formidable, otherwise I feel he'll get trounced upon. Canadian duo of Chan and Buttle could also be contenders, but neither has a quad, Buttle has struggled with consistency, and Chan has struggled with axels. Others to watch include Sergei Davydov, Sergei Voronov, Stephen Carriere, Alban Preaubert, Jeremy Abbott, and Kevin van der Perren.