World Championships Preview
(All times are Mountain Standard Time)
Based on results from this season, and especially over the past two months, we offer some thoughts on who the top five contenders are in each event; and pick some "dark horse" competitors who could slip in for a medal if they skate their best and a few of the leaders help them out by falling down.
The ladies event looks to be wide open, with no overwhelming favorite. Top contenders include Bonaly, Chen, Ito, Kwan, and Slutskaya. Ito is a big unknown, having only skated at the Japanese Nationals, which she won handily. Still a powerful jumper, she will be a force to be reckoned with. Nevertheless, that was also true in her previous eligible career during which she won the World Championship only once. A victory by her is not assured. Kwan is a strong contender, but has had problems with the short program her last two times out. Slutskaya has been skating well since Europeans, which she won, while Chen has skated inconsistently and did poorly in Paris. Bonaly skated poorly at Europeans but had been ill in December, and skated better in St. Petersburg. The month of training after St. Pete' should help her even further, but will it be enough? The odds, we think, tend to favor Ito, Kwan, and Slutskaya fighting for the top spots.
Long shot dark horse candidates include Butyrskaya, Szewczenko, and Yokoya. Yokoya, however, is technically weaker than the top contenders and would need a lot of help. Szewczenko has not been doing particularly well this season, and Butyrskaya is well known for her inconsistency.
In her second appearance at Worlds, Kwiatkowski, who failed to get out of the qualifying round in 1993, has something to prove, and we think she will. A top ten finish is within her grasp, and with two strong programs could even reach the top five. Lipinski, on the other hand, is a mystery. Although she has some difficult tricks, her jumps are small, and she looks like the little girl she is when she skates. If the judges take that view, she might not get out of the qualifying round. On the other hand, we consider her technically better than many of the European girls who can't jump and typically place in the second ten, and, thus, could end up in the middle of the pack.
The current standard for the men is that a complete set of triples with triple axel and triple axel - double toe, plus fair choreography will get you into the top ten. With triple axel - triple toe and good choreography a skater is competitive for the top five. Considering results since Europeans, the top contenders seem to be Eldredge, Kulik, Millot, Stojko, and Urmanov, with Stojko and Urmanov vying for the top spot. Eldredge has the technical skills to medal and even win, but his long program at Nationals was tedious, and not much better in Paris. Without major improvements in its structure and presentation we question whether his long program in its current form is strong enough to medal, no less win.
Dark horse contenders abound in the men's event. They include Cousins, Shmerkin, and Zagorodniuk. Cousins and Zagorodniuk have problems with consistency. Shmerkin has the technical skill, but his programs tend to be frivolous, and frivolous programs are rarely rewarded with medals. Some might be inclined to include 1994 and 1995 medalist Candeloro among this group, but his poor performances at Europeans and in St. Petersburg suggest he is going to have a difficult time in Edmonton. We give Zag - if he's on - the best chance to challenge the top five.
With a dissappointing short program, and then pulling out of the long program in St. Petersburg, and with little recent exposure before the International judges Galindo has his work cut out for him. With two strong programs and a triple axel - triple toe combination he has a chance to crack the top five, otherwise he is in the crowded top ten pack with all the other skaters show have triple axel and triple axel - double toes in their programs. One factor in his favor is the superior choreography of his programs, but he must do the difficult tricks and skate clean for it to matter. Hollander is in a similar situation. Skating clean he has the equipment to make the top ten, but with just a few errors he could easily be dropped several place.
Shishkova/Naumov look to have the best chance for the gold, but could be challenged by Eltsova/Bushkov or Kazakova/Dmitriev. In recent competitions Wotzel/Steuer have started strong in the short program, but have tended to fade in the long. To medal they will need two good programs or help from the others, which seems unlikely - but not impossible. Filling out the top five are Meno/Sand. Perhaps the most stylish of the top five, the lack of difficulty in their long program pair elements holds them back, and questions of stamina remain. Nevertheless, with two clean programs that include triple toes, and a few mistakes from other teams, a repeat medal is not beyond the possibilities. Dark horse teams include Abitbol/Bernadis, Ina/Dungjen, and Petrova/Sikharulidze.
Ina/Dungjen have one of the more technically difficult long programs, but their style is probably too "American" for them to place in the top five without several teams ahead of them crashing and burning. Still, they are capable of moving up a few places from last year if they skate two clean programs, which they generally tend to do. Lyons/Wells have a reasonable chance to place in the top ten, but that is not assured. They have many strong points, but there are questions of adequate speed and confidence, and Wells must get the triple Salchow under control in the short program.
Grischuk/Platov are the favorites to win the dance event. Filling out the top five contenders we have Anissina/Peizerat, Bourne/Kraatz, Krylova/Ovsyannikov, and Romanova/Yaroshenko. Based on recent results Krylova/Ovsyannikov have the edge for the silver, while the others fight for the bronze. Under normal circumstances we would expect Moniotte/Lavanchy to have challenge for a medal, but due to injury they have not skated much this season and recently decided not compete this year. There are no dark horse couple in dance.
Both U.S. teams have a decent chance to place in the top ten, but are unlikely to finish higher than 7th place - a result most everyone in the U.S. would be thrilled with.
Return to Title Page