This is the showdown we have been waiting for. The men's competition at this week's Four Continents Championships in Gangneung, South Korea, is going to be insane. We are missing a couple of the contenders for the World podium, but there are so many of them here that this may as well by a preview of the World Championships. This is not just the strongest men's field ever at a Four Continents Championships, but it is one of the deepest lineups at any competition. I can't handle it.
2017 Four Continents Predictions
Official hashtag: #4ContsFigure
GOLD Nathan Chen USA - Oh look, I found the bandwagon. This prediction is one that I couldn't (and wouldn't) have made even three months ago. But so much has changed since then, and this could be 1) the perfect storm for Chen to make a breakthrough even bigger than the one he made at Grand Prix Final, and 2) the perfect setup for him to really make a splash at Worlds next month. Why the perfect storm? Well, Chen already has the difficulty in technical repertoire, but he's also found the consistency that we saw at Nationals three weeks ago. That combined with Hanyu's relative inconsistency this season so far may be exactly what he needs - and he needs a monster 300+ score - to pull off the upset of upsets in South Korea.
SILVER Yuzuru Hanyu JPN - Does that mean that Hanyu is the underdog? Not at all. In fact, I would still say that Hanyu is the favorite for the title. He has more paths to victory than Chen does, and his component marks can carry him to the top despite his technical disadvantage to Chen and Jin. But consistency will play a factor here - he has yet to come close to reproducing the back-to-back brilliance that he had at NHK and Grand Prix Final in 2015. But Hanyu has had a couple months off competition since he won the Grand Prix Final in December, and so fresh legs could give him the push he needs to grab the only major title he has yet to win.
BRONZE Patrick Chan CAN - If you put Chan's Grand Prix Final short and his Canadians free together, you'd have one pretty spectacular competition showing. Much like last season, he has delivered very strong programs this season, but has not put two in a row together. The great news for him is that he's now two-for-two on quad salchows in his last two competitions, and that will be key for him to have a chance at taking the title here. Chan, incidentally, is undefeated at Four Continents, having won each of the three times he's entered.
4. Shoma Uno JPN - It's been a pretty good sophomore season for Uno, who has turned out some fantastic programs in competition this season. His highlight so far, like Chen, was the Grand Prix Final, where he put down a great free skate to take the bronze ahead of Patrick Chan and Javier Fernandez. But he comes in after a Japan Nationals that was probably a tad too close for his liking - at least in the short program. He will absolutely need to skate two solid programs to put himself in contention for the podium. And add another quad to the list for Uno - he is planning a quad loop in his free skate.
5. Boyang Jin CHN - Jin felt the sprinting footsteps and took action. He was the first to cleanly land four quads in a free skate - and he did so at this very competition last season to win the silver. And with Chen bringing the heat with his five-quad US Championships free skate, Jin has made it a point to up his technical difficulty by adding the quad loop for Four Continents. Jin's disadvantage, even to Chen, comes in his components, and so he will need to be consistent to get back on the podium. But if we learned anything from last year's Worlds, where Jin quietly took bronze after skaters around him took spills, it's a game of risk and reward with these quads.
6. Jason Brown USA - This will be a real test for Brown - and frankly, also a preview of what could possibly happen next month in March with the number of Olympic spots for the American men. A stress fracture in December derailed his lead-up to Nationals, and he clawed his way to the bronze medal after rediscovering his triple axel basically the day of the free skate. He's had a couple more weeks to heal and train since then, and if Nationals was any indication, he will come into Gangneung strong. Though he is looking to attempt the quad toe this week, two clean, no-quad programs will put him in the 270 range, which will be good enough for a top six or seven finish.
7. Kevin Reynolds CAN - Remember when Reynolds surprised basically everyone in the skating world and won Four Continents in 2013? Well, he's back at Four Continents in the dark horse position, having rediscovered his jumps this season after resolving his boot problems. Like a few others here, he's got quads galore in his free skate. But he tends to have more underrotations, which will make it that much harder for him to compete with this field.
8. Keiji Tanaka JPN - It's been another step in the right direction this season for Tanaka, who just came off a silver medal at Universiade behind Denis Ten. Ten, incidentally, opted to skip this event likely to rest up for Asian Winter Games later this month. He was sixth last year at Four Continents and will look to position himself for a strong showing at his first Worlds next month.
9. Han Yan CHN - You just never really know what to do with Yan. Last season, he went from bronze at Four Continents to 26th at Worlds just a month later. This season, he was 10th at Skate America and then 5th at Cup of China. He's an enigma. This whole thing is an enigma. I'm leaving it at that.
10. Misha Ge UZB - Ge is on the road back after a tumultuous season last year, and he has had solid results so far this season. His key will be the quad toe, which would push him up at least a couple spots into the top eight range.