2010 Olympic Champion Evan Lysacek isn’t back to defend his gold medal, so let’s take a look at who we should watch in Sochi:
Patrick Chan: Hailing from Canada,Patrick is a 3-time World Champion and the overwhelming favorite for gold in Sochi. However, Patrick Chan has a bad habit of messing up in competition and still winning the gold due to his superior skating skills, footwork, and transitions. After a messy performance by Patrick trumped a clean skate by Dennis Ten at the 2013 World Championships, a backlash began against his seemingly inflated scores (called “Chanflation” by fans). Patrick has the jumps as well as the program components to win gold, but the judges seem to be taking off their gloves. Look for him to win…if he skates cleanly.
Yuzuru Hanyu. I must confess, I’m shocked to see Yuzuru as a potential gold medalist. Why? He’s so young! He’s 19 years old, and in figure skating, men don’t generally peak until their early-to-mid 20s. However, this Japanese skater became a potential spoiler after beating a clean Patrick Chan at the Grand Prix Final. If Patrick leaves the door open at all, Yuzuru will be there to take advantage of it. Also, his music is almost the same cut of Romeo and Juliet that Sasha Cohen (one of my all-time faves) used in 2006 so that’s weird. But there’s something so beautiful and haunting about it and Yuzuru can put so much heart into his skating when he feels it.
Javier Fernandez: Javier represents Spain, which is not known as a powerhouse in figure skating, but by claiming the bronze medal at last year’s World Championships and breaking out huge quad-triple combinations, he’s a real contender for a medal.
Daisuke Takahashi: Bronze medalist at the 2010 games, Daisuke Takahashi is a longtime fan favorite and a crowd-pleasing skater. He blazed the trailer for the Japanese men in figure skating by becoming the first man from Japan to win a World Championship, Olympic medal, and Grand Prix Final. This season has been disappointing for Dai. He finished off the podium at Japanese Nationals and was named to the Olympic team based on his “body of work.” If he’s able to recapture the magic from his previous seasons, he could be a medal contender in Sochi.
Evgeni Plushenko: 2006 Olympic Champion. 2002 and 2010 Olympic silver medalist. He’s back, allegedly. Russia named him to the Olympic team even though he struggled at Russian nationals. Infamously full of himself, he’s definitely a villain at these games. He’s known for rattling off insane quad jumps but he’s lacking in choreography and personality.
Jeremy Abbott: How do you solve a problem like Jeremy Abbott? Jeremy Abbott is one of the best skaters in the world. His programs are artistic and musical, as well as packed with difficult jumps, including a quad-triple combination. Jeremy is a 4-time US Champion, and his skate at the 2010 Nationals would have won him gold in Vancouver had he not imploded at the Olympics themselves. And at the World Championships the next year. And the year after. Jeremy can’t seem to get his head in the game at major international events, and definitely struggles with nerves. Can he put it all together this time?
Jason Brown: Jason Brown is my favorite, and that’s not because we skated at the same rinks, are from the same area and belong to the same synagogue. No, he’s been my favorite for a long time. A natural performer, his programs play to the crowd, but what makes him truly impressive is how deftly he handles impossible choreography. Watch this skate from the US Nationals (it’s already got 3.2 million views!). He lifts his leg up next to his head…and then does a triple with an arm raised! That is fantastic skating. Jason lacks a quad jump so he probably won’t challenge for a medal this time around, but look for him to be a contender in 2018.
Storylines to watch:
-Can Patrick Chan make good on years of promise, or will Yuzuru steal his thunder?
-Will Plushenko return in halfway-decent form?
-Actually, can Plushenko just go away?
-Will Jeremy Abbott finally go clean in international competition?
-No but really, all I want is two clean programs from Jason Brown. So I hope that happens.