Four Continents a chance for new dreams to take shape
Figure skating's non-Olympics 'consolation' a glimpse into future
PJ'S PODIUM PICKS
Men: Denis Ten (KAZ)
Ladies: Kanako Murakami (JPN)
Pairs: Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (CHN)
Ice Dance: Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier (CAN)
In an Olympic season the ISU Four Continents Championship takes on special significance. Rather than looking at the event as a sort of consolation for skaters whose dreams of making the Olympics were not realized, I like to think of it as the place where new dreams can start to take shape.
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje missed making the Olympic team by 3/10ths of a point in 2010 and went on to take the 2010 Four Continents title. In my opinion their Four Continents gold precipitated their climb to the highest level in the dance world where they are now. The Four Continents can be a game changer in a skater’s career.
There are some skaters who will be appearing at this year’s event in Taipei, Taiwan, and then leave immediately for the Olympics at its conclusion.
Denis Ten, the reigning sorld silver medallist is one of those skaters. Ten won the free program over Patrick Chan at Worlds in 2013 but hasn’t been able to really compete over the first half of this season due to injury. He needs this competition to ‘find his legs’ before hitting the main stage in Sochi. I love this guy’s brand of musicality and technical elements to die for and it is because of this that he is my pick for the gold. This doesn’t mean that he won’t be challenged and I think his biggest threats will be from Takahiko Kozuka, the 2011 world silver medallist from Japan, and former two-time Junior world champion Adam Rippon of the United States.
The ice dance field is filled with talented North American teams but I think that the chances are very good that Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier will take the title. They will be ably challenged by Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue among others. Making the difference for me is Gilles and Poirier’s unique free dance characterizing the relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and Tippy Hedren. It hits the mark technically while being deliciously creepy.
The stand-alone team for me in the pairs’ event is the Chinese team of Wenjing Sui and Cong Han. This extraordinary team won medals in both of their Grand Prix this season, are three-time world junior pair champions and the 2012 Four Continents champions. They have a technical arsenal and emerging artistic style that has them with a 20-point lead over the next closest team and I don’t expect it will be any different in Taipei.
The women pose an interesting problem in that the overall quality is very good with many skaters of equal ability and potential. American bronze medallist Mirai Nagasu failed in her appeal to be named to the Olympic team but will be able to turn that lemon into lemonade by skating the lights out of the place here. It won’t be easy as Japan’s Kanako Murakami will be looking to best her 2013 Four Continents bronze medal as she uses this event as her Sochi Olympic warm-up.