There are three favorite for gold, and each of them bring their own special quality to the ice that has made them among the best of their generation. You’ve got the reigning Olympic champ making a comeback from injury, the reigning World champ trying to repeat some of the best skating of his career, and the Four Continents champ wanting to win another big title. But beyond them, there is a host of skaters who have a chance at the top ten. In fact, there are probably over 15 skaters who are deserving of a top ten spot.
Craziness. That’s what this Worlds is going to be.
World Championships predictions
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GOLD Yuzuru Hanyu JPN - Is he back? And how back is he? Knowing how he operates, he’s not the type of skater who goes into a competition as important as this one unprepared. Hanyu would only compete here if he knows he can win it - and because of that alone, I’d say he has a slight edge over the other two favorites. Given clean performances, there’s still no one who can beat him - the ease of his jumps, the power and depth of his skating, it’s all there. I say Hanyu brings his A+ game here once again and figures out a path to his third World title.
SILVER Nathan Chen USA - It’s been an unorthodox season for Chen, to say the least, but he has somehow managed to continue to be at the top of his game. He has not lost since the Olympics last year, and he does have a good shot at repeating as World champion. But if Hanyu is at full strength, Chen is going to have to channel the kind of ease and kind of skating that he brought to the US Championships two months ago. It will be all about the execution of his jumps for him this week, because that will make the difference between placements on the podium.
BRONZE Shoma Uno JPN - With two months since Four Continents, Uno has had sufficient time to take a break and heal his ankle, which has bothered him one and off for months. And it’s especially important because that ankle will also determine how much risk he takes in his programs. Without a consistent quad flip, he will not be competitive for the title. But if he figures it out again, he’s very much right back in the mix of the whole thing.
4. Boyang Jin CHN - This is a tricky one. The first half of Jin’s season was a bit of a disaster. It was potentially as if he was still reeling from that Worlds last season where he completely fell apart in the free skate. But based on what he did at Chinese Nationals and then again at Four Continents, it does seem like he’s found his rhythm again. He will want to carry that momentum to Saitama this week if he’s to have any shot at getting back to the podium.
5. Matteo Rizzo ITA - Here’s the surprise prediction for you. This guy has been on the rise ever since his bronze at Europeans. He comes in as the Universiade champion, and all of that attributed to a finally-consistent quad toe, which will be the key for him here in Saitama. He’s riding a huge high from that Universiade win, and could be the big surprise here at Worlds. Other skaters might have higher base value, but his consistency is what’s going to get him to this top five.
6. Vincent Zhou USA - Zhou returns to a competition where he had such a booming start last year and then, like Boyang Jin, had a disastrous free skate. But it’s a different year and a different competition, and his short program win at Four Continents has to be a confidence-booster for him coming in. As always, the big factor will be the rotation of his jumps.
7. Keegan Messing CAN - The name of the game with Messing is unpredictability. His elements are brilliant when they are clean, but they are disastrous if he’s even slightly off. But that’s also why he’s got such high scoring potential. If he skates to his potential, a top five finish could very well be there for him.
8. Jason Brown USA - The transition year continues for Brown - and his return to the World Championships will be as big of a test as any as to how much confidence he has gotten back. If the US Championships and Four Continents were any indication, he’s poised to have a solid competition, and it will be bolstered by a strong short program.
9. Junhwan Cha KOR - Has he competed too much this season? That’s sort of been the theme of Cha’s season over the past couple of months. He started his season so strongly, but we’ve just seen his momentum slow just a bit, especially at Four Continents.
10. Kevin Aymoz FRA - With two of the most choreographically-interesting programs of the season, Aymoz really has a chance to make a splash at this first Worlds. In a lot of ways, his outlook here is similar to that of Rizzo, but he hasn’t shown the kind of momentum-shifting consistency that Rizzo has.