3 Reasons You Should Watch The World Figure Skating Championships This Week

by Danielle Owen

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Japan’s Mao Asada

Figure skating is a difficult sport to sell to newcomers. The IJS system of judging is notoriously complicated and the technicalities of spins, transitions, and step sequences can fly right over the head of a casual viewer. What does it mean to zayak? How do you tell if a skater takes off on the wrong edge or under-rotates a jump? What’s GOE or PCS? I’d argue that you don’t really need to understand the technical jargon to tell a good skate from a bad one. So, even if you’ve never watched a short program in your life, you can still enjoy the performances of the world’s top skaters when they compete in Boston this week. Here’s five reasons to tune in to the 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships:

1) The men’s event will be historic

Although women’s figure skating has stagnated internationally due to a lack of consistency and technical prowess, the men’s field in the last two years has escalated in difficulty and intensified in drama. Reigning Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu became the first man in the history of the sport to break 300 points last fall at NHK Trophy, and then did it again at another competition two weeks later.

The best skate in the history of the sport. Can he do it again at the World Championships? 

China’s 18-year old prodigy Boyang Jin also made history when he became the only man to land a quadruple lutz (the most difficult jump possible) in competition. Both men have pushed the rest of the field to increase the difficulty of their technical content in order to be competitive, so this World Championships marks the highest number of quadruple jumps being attempted in the history of the sport. It’s not all a game of jumps, however. Men like Canada’s Patrick Chan have a shot at the podium thanks to Program Component Scores, the “artistic” score which judges expressiveness, musicality, fluidity, and transitions. Still, the past season has shown that the sport is moving in the direction of rewarding technical difficulty more than artistry. Hanyu, Jin, and other competitors will continue to incorporate more and more difficult quads in to their programs, while the “artistry” half of their score will remain stagnant. This fact has led many in the skating world to petition for changes in the current scoring system. Overall, this World Championships represents a major turning point for a sport in the process of deciding if artistry and jumps should be valued equally, and, if so, how to change the scoring system to reflect that balance.

(Those twizzles at 3:06 though) The best free dance by any pair this season… yet somehow they weren’t placed on the podium at the Grand Prix Final. Can the sibling team get a medal at Worlds? Or will Ice Dance judging continue to be political and terrible? #justiceforshibsibs 

2) Americans have a shot at medaling in Ice Dance

Even if Donald Trump believes that America doesn’t win anything anymore, we win at Ice Dance quite frequently! (He’s right about singles skating though—No American woman has gotten a medal at Worlds since 2006, and no man since 2010). Anyway, the Ice Dance team Madison Chock/Evan Bates are often favored by international judges and could take a medal this year, since they nabbed a silver medal last year. However, many US fans think they are routinely over-scored (sorry C/B fans) and are instead hoping that the sibling team Maia and Alex Shibutani will end up on the podium, and maybe even take the gold medal. This might prove difficult, though—since placing 3rd at Worlds in 2011, the judges haven’t been kind to the team, consistently and unfairly underscoring them. This season marks a turnaround for the Shibs thanks to their wins at NHK Trophy and Four Continents Championships. The fact that Worlds are being held on home ice this year might give them the boost they need to finally rise above the other teams.

Ashley Wagner’s Short Program at the Grand Prix Final. American women are cursed when it comes to consistency. 

3)USA ladies might finally overcome their nerves and get on the podium probably not though 

No American woman has been in the top three at a World Championships since 2006. With the competition this year being held in Boston, many US skating fans are hoping that Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold (our current national champion), and Mirai Nagasu can benefit from home ice advantage and finish in the top three. In my opinion, the best we can hope for is a top five finish. None of our competitors are known for consistently, but are instead decried as “headcases”—skaters who perform perfectly in practice, but fall apart under pressure. With Satoko Mihayara (Japan) and her machine-like consistency, as well as the top two Russian ladies (Medvedeva and Radionova) being… Russian, it’s likely that the medal drought will continue. In my opinion, the future of US Women’s Figure Skating lies in the hands of 16 year-old Karen Chen, who didn’t qualify for Worlds this year but is still better than the other US ladies.

The favorite for the gold medal, Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia. 

How to watch the Championships:

  • 3/30 NBCSN: Short Dance 12:00PM
  • 3/31 NBCSN: Men’s SP 12:00AM , Ladies’ SP 4:00PM , Free Dance 8:00PM
  • 4/1 NBCSN: Pairs’ SP 3:00PM* , Men’s FS 9:00PM
  • 4/2: NBCSN Pairs’ FS 2:00PM* Ladies’ FS 9:00PM
  • 4/3 NBCSN: Gala 2:00PM
  • NBCSN stream: Official stream, Unofficial Stream 1, Stream 2,Stream 3

*No one really watches the Pairs competition.

Danielle Owen is a junior at Barnard College and Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Nine Ways of Knowing.

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