As we approach the announcement of the 2106-17 Grand Prix announcements, I’ll make a few comments about the year in mens, pairs and dance to review and set us up for next season.
Steady Javi Wins the Race (Again): When all was said and done in Boston, Javier Fernandez claimed his second World title after two consistent skates that overtook his training partner and World #1, Yuzuru Hanyu. Javier may not have the edge over Hanyu when Hanyu is skating at is best (or would he?), but he can get the job done when it counts the most. Javier made technical upgrades as the season progressed and I expect him to include those next year. His short program was so well received that he is keeping it a second year, giving him a comfortable start to 2016-17, with one program well rehearsed. Can he make it three in a row?
Yuzuru’s Records: In what may be the greatest display of world-class men’s skating, Yuzuru Hanyu threw down four consecutive programs that shattered the record books at the 2015 NHK Trophy and Grand Prix Final. Armed with what I thought were two of the strongest programs in the entire men’s field this year, Yuzu showed why he is the complete package and the best of both worlds. Knowing that he is capable of this kind of brilliance, it was hard to watch him struggle at Worlds for the second year in a row. He has all the tools (and all the records) to get himself a World title before PyeongChang and that would be the best way to set himself up to defend his Olympic title.
Uno Turns Disappointment to Progress: With solid finishes during his first year on the Grand Prix circuit, Shoma Uno was disappointed with his performance at Worlds. To his credit, he turned that quickly into headlines when he landed his quad flip at the Team Challenge Cup and made the international men’s competition all the more interesting. This kid is dynamic and fun to watch, and obviously has the technical goods to boot. He can really be in the mix again next year.
Comeback Chan: Patrick's return season was a bumpy one. Amidst the struggles, though, were bright spots- he still has the skating skills and quality lines that made him so successful in the past. He announced he's making a move to a different training facility with the same coach, so perhaps a change of scenery will bring the progress he needs. The road to an Olympic comeback is a long one, and though it may not have gone the way he hoped, it's the path he's gotta go on.
Russia Looks to Youth: With most of their seasoned competitors struggling big time this year, two young Russians stole the spotlight internationally. Adian Pitkeev had great moments in the Grand Prix and Mikhail Kolyada had a great fourth place finish at Worlds. It may be time for a “changing of the guard” for the Russian men as the future looks brightest for their younger generation.
Quads vs Quality Debate Rages in the U.S. : A reflection of the bigger issues facing figure skating as a whole, the men’s event at the U.S. Nationals caused controversy as the federation tries to create a legacy of skaters with both performance quality and the quads necessary to compete on the World’s stage. While we have great jumpers and great artists, the U.S. doesn’t have someone who can compete with the likes of Hanyu and Fernandez. With Jason Brown back in the mix next year after an injury, reigning National Champ Adam Rippon will need another consistent season to stay on top of the men’s field, while jumper Max Aaron needs to continue to push his artistic quality to be in contention for that U.S. title. Nathan Chen is recovering from an injury and we will have to wait and see what shape he will be in in the coming months.
I will be back after the announcement of the Grand Prix assignments to take a look at how the men will stack up next fall!
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Reviews, predictions and opinions in the magical, sparkly and dramatic field of figure skating.