Although the World Championships were just three weeks ago, there are still some notable storylines to keep an eye on at World Team Trophy this week. First of course, are the safety concerns of hosting the event as coronavirus cases in Osaka continue to rise, which we’ve already gone over, so for this final preview, let’s focus on the sporting elements of the weekend.
Repeats and Redemption
Even though this event might not have massive implications like World medals or Olympic places, there are plenty of people who will be looking to end their season on a high. Chief among them, Rika Kihira will be returning to her free skate from last season after a disappointing outing at Worlds which she’ll certainly want to shake off going into next season as a potential Olympic medalist.
It’s also a near certainty that we’ll see the same pairs and dance teams finish at the top of their fields. The absence of other Russian pairs, Team China, and Moore-Towers and Marinaro mean that Mishina and Galliamov will continue building their momentum after becoming World Champions, and the continued hiatus of Papadakis and Cizeron paired with the US sending Hawayek and Baker instead of a top ten dance team mean Sinitsina and Katsalapov will get a top step finish as well.
The singles fields are a bit more competitive, but Anna Shcherbakova and Nathan Chen will both be competing and have a decent chance to repeat as well.
One team that will need very strong skates to be competitive is Team Italy who, in unprecedented fashion, find themselves a man short for this event. Matteo Rizzo tested positive for COVID-19 before leaving for Osaka, and per the event guidelines he could not be replaced in time, so Daniel Grassl will be carrying the Italian men’s side on his own.
Even though there are no international Olympic implications, there are plenty of national level faceoffs to keep an eye on. In men’s, Nam Nguyen and Roman Sadovsky are both going to be in contention for one of Canada’s two Olympic spots and both need to prove they can have solid international outings.
In the women’s field, Karen Chen has been steadily moving back up the ranks and if she can beat Bradie Tennell again this week then she’ll improve her chances of snagging an Olympic spot, which could be vitally important if the US fails to secure a third spot in the fall.
And in the uber-competitive Russian field, any weak competition makes getting onto the Olympic team that much harder, and drastic actions may be needed to stay in the conversation.
On that very subject, World Team Trophy has often served as a testing ground for skaters to put in new elements without significant consequences. Liza Tuktamysheva is one of several women who has posted videos of herself landing quad jumps in practice but has never landed one in competition, so there’s a possibility she could whip one out here to make a statement.
Among the other women competitors, Kaori Sakamoto has also teased a quad and Bradie Tennell was supposedly training a triple Axel at one point. Rika Kihira has confirmed that due to injury she will not be attempting any quads at this event and only has a triple Axel planned in the free skate.
Finally, and most terrifyingly, Yuzuru Hanyu has been training the quad Axel for the past few years, said he was training it up until three days before Worlds, and in multiple interviews reiterated that landing the jump is his main goal right now. World Team Trophy would be a good competition to try it for the first time, and would create an appropriately surreal ending to this bizarre season.