Two of the biggest names in skating are missing from Four Continents this week - there will be no pre-Worlds matchup between Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu. But that certainly doesn’t mean that the competition in Anaheim is going to be a snoozer. The entire podium from last season’s Four Continents is back for more glory, headlined by Shoma Uno, who is trying to round out his collection of medals at this event with his first win.
Four Continents predictions
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GOLD Shoma Uno JPN - Bronze two years ago, silver last year - it’s probably time for Uno to close out his medal collection with a gold here. The big question coming in, though, is how his ankle is feeling after a painful Japan Nationals. Does he risk the big quads or go for a less difficult layout to maximizing his execution scores? Either way, he’s the class of this field and enters as the solid favorite for the title. It will be a warmup for him in anticipation of Worlds at home in March.
SILVER Junhwan Cha KOR - What can you say about Cha’s sophomore season? No sophomore slump there - he’s really become one of the breakout stars so far, winning a medal at every competition he’s been in, including bronze at the Grand Prix Final. And that was no small feat considering the competition he was facing at the Final. His performances at Korean Nationals last month were a bit off-kilter, so it will be interesting to see where he is at this time of the season and whether or not he peaked too early. I’m guessing not.
BRONZE Jason Brown USA - At this point in his rebuilding season, Brown is likely just where he wants to be - he got through the US Championships and made it to the second half of the season; he has rediscovered some of the consistency that he used to have; he has found a quad in practice that he wants to translate into competition. At the US Championships, he skated perhaps the best short program of his career. The spark that was missing earlier in the season was back, and he’s ready to take another step forward this week in his season.
4. Vincent Zhou USA - The short program will say a lot about how and where Zhou will finish at Four Continents this week. Internationally, his season has been subpar for his standards - a mix between skating through injury early in the season and getting underrotation calls on his high-risk technical content. In Detroit two weeks ago, Zhou put together some of his best skating of the season, showing off greater rotational clarity on a few of his jumps and stronger attention to musical detail. He’s got a shot at the podium in his Four Continents debut this week.
5. Boyang Jin CHN - Since his 19th-place Worlds finish last year, Jin hasn’t looked like the same skater. And when you have the risky technical content that he does, lacking confidence doesn’t help matters. His ninth-place at Internationaux de France hopefully was the low for his season, and his skates at Chinese Nationals were promising. Now will he be able to put it together again in international competition? Don’t forget - Jin is the defending Four Continents champ.
6. Keegan Messing CAN - After a breakout season last year, Messing has been expected to ride that wave into this season as the new leading man in Canadian skating. But after a really strong start to his season, his last couple of competitions have sputtered. His freewheeling presence on the ice is what endears him to the audience, but it’s also what keeps him from putting down consistent performances.
7. Nam Nguyen CAN - Four years after he won his first Canadian title, Nguyen returned to the top to win his second last month. It’s been a resurgent season for him, a return to confidence, consistency, and form that has taken him back to the results that he’s been looking to get back to. He was ninth here last season, and he’s got the opportunity to really give himself a boost with two strong skates internationally going into Worlds.
8. Kazuki Tomono JPN - It’s been up and down for Tomono this season. After his surprise fifth-place finish at Worlds last year, he’s struggled to find that consistent sweet spot to capitalize on that great finish to last season. He’s made some strides in his last two events, taking bronze at Rostelecom Cup and making a comeback from seventh to finish fourth at Japan Nationals.
9. Tomoki Hiwatashi USA - He figured something out at the US Championships. Hiwatashi has struggled to put together strong skates at big events. Ever since his bronze at Junior Worlds in 2016, he hasn’t really lived up to the promise that he showed on the junior scene. But with a more consistent triple axel and improvements in his quad toe, he could be an outsider here who has a shot at finishing in the top six.
10. Keiji Tanaka JPN - Eighth at his two Grand Prix appearances this season, Tanaka has not had a particularly strong season, though his Japan Nationals performances salvaged what would otherwise have been a disappointing season. He was fourth here last year - a strong competition could really turn it around for him heading into Worlds.