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ple toe loop combinations, and Mariah Bell, a fresh, energetic presence who won silver at Skate America last fall and the bronze medal in Kansas City. With nine victories in 10 senior interna-


BY LYNN RUTHERFORD When the World Figure Skating Champion-

ships were last held in Helsinki, Finland, in 1999, the U.S. came away with two medals: Michelle Kwan’s silver and Michael Weiss’ bronze. Tis sea- son, with solid podium contenders in three events, there’s a chance it could equal or surpass the medal haul.

Te 2017 ISU World Championships run

March 29-April 2 in Helsinki. Hopes are pinned on Nathan Chen, the

17-year-old who rocketed to his first U.S. title in Kansas City in January. Chen could bring home the first U.S. men’s medal — possibly gold — since Evan Lysacek won the World title in 2009, if he can duplicate his performances in Kansas City. Tere, the teenager landed seven quadruple jumps: a Lutz and flip in his short program, and five quads in his free skate, the first time this has ever been accomplished. Chen won silver at the Grand Prix Final

in December, defeating two-time and reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain and Canada’s three-time world champion Patrick Chan. He also bested Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan in the free skate. Te base value of his technical elements in Kansas City far out- strips any Fernandez, Hanyu or Chan has posted, and while his program component scores still lag, they’re catching up. “He is growing up, and we are looking for-

ward to doing more and more and more,” Chen’s coach, Rafael Arutunian,

said, adding, “His

strongest weapon is his mind.” Another prize on the line: three men’s spots

at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. Te key may be how well Jason Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion who placed fourth at the 2015 World Championships, performs in Helsinki. In Kansas City, Brown was limited by a stress fracture in his right fibula but still gutted out a bronze medal. Te consummate showman will rack up points with his superlative skating skills, and also plans to add the quadruple toe loop to his programs — a jump he said he was landing regularly in practice prior to the injury. To gain three spots, Chen’s and Brown’s placements must be equal to or lower than 13.

WAGNER LEADS THE WAY Last season, Ashley Wagner broke a 10-

year U.S. ladies drought with her World silver medal in Boston. After an up-and-down interna- tional season, the U.S. silver medalist hopes to add clean triple-triple jump combinations and high-value spins to her formidable performance skills in Helsinki. Wagner is joined by two Worlds debutantes:

Karen Chen, who shook off boot problems and confidence issues to win the title in Kansas City with captivating programs and huge triple Lutz-tri-

tional events, including the 2017 European Fig- ure Skating Championships, defending cham- pion Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia is heavily favored in Helsinki. Her Russian teammate Anna Pogorilaya, who won bronze last season, will challenge, as will Italy’s Carolina Kostner, who returned after two seasons away to place third at the European Championships. Japan will also field a strong team, but their champion, Satoko Miyahara, arrives in Helsinki recovering from a hip injury.


Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, and

Madison Chock and Evan Bates, will defend World medals — silver and bronze, respective- ly. Both teams brought their best to Kansas City, where the Shibutanis built a lead in the short dance and survived a defeat in the free dance to triumph by just 1.01 points. By the time the World Championships roll around, they will have had another competition, the 2017 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, un- der their belts and more chances to fine-tune their programs. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue

are likely still smarting from a costly fall in the free dance in Kansas City, where they settled for their fourth bronze medal. Tey placed a ca- reer-high sixth in the world last season. Te U.S. teams’ greatest competition are two couples who train with Hubbell and Dono- hue in Montreal, Quebec: Canada’s 2010 Olym- pic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who set a new scoring record at the Grand Prix Final, and two-time defending champions Gabrielle Pa- padakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France.

PAIRS HOPE TO PEAK Newly crowned Haven Denney and Bran-

don Frazier, and 2015 U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim look to be rounding into peak form for Helsinki. Te Knierims did not compete in Kansas

City, due to Alexa’s stomach surgery in Septem- ber, but with three World top-10 finishes to their credit, they were chosen for the World team. Tey returned to action at Four Continents and planned to show off their greatest weapon, a quadruple twist, a move many teams — includ- ing European champions Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia — have struggled to perfect. Denney and Frazier made their Worlds de- but in 2015, placing 12th. Helsinki will be their sixth planned international competition of the season, a busy schedule after missing the entire 2015–16 season due to Denney’s April 2015 right knee injury and year-long rehabilitation. Tey had a fine Grand Prix season, winning silver at Skate America.

Te U.S. pairs will face formidable compe-

tition from a host of countries, with defending champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada, Tarasova and Morozov, Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot and World silver medalists Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China considered the favorites.

Nathan Chen SKATING 27


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