Winnipeg – A trio of Russian women are hoping to bolster their credentials to make the Olympic team this week at Skate Canada in Vancouver, while three-time world champion Nathan Chen will be skating for redemption.
Chen struggled in his season debut at Skate America last weekend in Las Vegas, where his three-year winning streak ended abruptly.
He settled for the bronze medal after misfiring on four of his typically reliable quadruple jumps.
“The more (quads) you put out, the more risky it is,” Chen said. “Is it worth it? I don’t know. It depends on the day, I guess.”
Whether the U.S. champ can be beaten again at Skate Canada remains a long shot, but just knowing that beating him is not impossible may give other top contenders, including Canada’s Keegan Messing and American Jason Brown a boost of confidence.
Like Chen, Russian women have dominated international podiums in recent years, thanks to the nation’s unmatched depth.
Kamila Valieva, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Alena Kostornaia finished 1-2-3 at the Finlandia Trophy in Espoo, Finland, three weeks ago and enter the second of six Grand Prix events with impressive resumes.
The youngest of the trio, Valieva, 15, has been the most successful among the latest batch of phenomenal competitors trained by star-making coach Eteri Tutberidze.
In Finland, the 2020 world junior champion landed three quads in her free skate, garnering the highest score ever awarded for a long program plus a record total score.
At 24, Tuktamysheva is the seasoned veteran among Russia’s prodigies and the only top-flight woman who does not train with Tutberidze in Moscow.
The 2015 world champion mastered the triple axel late in her career to keep herself in the game, and claimed silver at the world championships in last March.
Kostornaia, 18, also has a triple axel in her repertoire.
Wakaba Higuchi is among the women who could spoil the Russians’ hopes of sweeping the podium. Other threats include Americans Alysa Liu and Karen Chen, who finished fourth at the worlds behind three Russians last year.
Two-time world champions and 2018 Olympic silver medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong will be in the spotlight in the pairs competition. The Chinese pair are hoping to cap their careers with Olympic gold in Beijing in February. The favorites in ice dance include couples from Spain, Italy, Great Britain and Canada.
According to Canadian government COVID-19 protocols, international athletes who are not inoculated with a Canada-accepted vaccine are subject to a mandatory quarantine and testing when entering Canada.
A Skate Canada spokesperson confirmed there were skaters from Russia and China who didn’t meet vaccination requirements and had to sequester at a hotel for 72 hours after landing in Vancouver. A limited crowd of 1000 fully-vaccinated fans will be in the stands when the competition begins Friday.
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