Vancouver, BC

Twelve teams are slated to take the ice at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver for the 2009 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. More attention has been drawn to Four Continents this year due to the event being held at the arena that will serve as a venue for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Vancouver will mark the 2008/09 international debut of Canada’s Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir. Although the team is playing catch up after missing the ISU Grand Prix series last autumn due to Virtue’s injury, the team won their second national title in January, and Virtue’s recovery seems to be on the right track.

The newly crowned U.S. champions, Meryl Davis & Charlie White, could challenge Virtue & Moir for the Four Continents title. There has been an international buzz about their free dance this season, and Davis & White have performed it well each time out. Many thought the battle at the U.S. Championships would have been closer than ever, had Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto competed.

Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates of the U.S. and Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier of Canada, both fresh off silver medal finishes at their respective Nationals, will make their senior ISU championships debuts. It will be the first time since the 2008 World Junior Championships that the two young teams have faced off against each other. Though both teams had junior eligibility this season, they chose to debut on the senior Grand Prix circuit. Both teams walked away with a medal, with Crone & Poirier capturing silver at Skate Canada and Samuelson & Bates winning bronze at NHK Trophy. With gold and silver virtually a lock, the young duos will likely battle each other for the bronze.

Two-time U.S. and 2008 Four Continents bronze medalists, Kimberly Navarro & Brent Bommentre, can also challenge for the podium. Navarro & Bommentre performed a revamped version of their free dance at U.S. Nationals that showed vast improvement from the version skated on the Grand Prix series. The program to music by “Fat Boy Slim” needs to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. Six inches on a laptop does not do it justice.

Multi-time Canadian medalists Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje will compete in their second Four Continents Championship; they finished fifth in 2008. Weaver & Poje have a beautiful free dance to music from Dr. Zhivago. The team was knocked out of silver medal position at Canadian Nationals by Crone & Poirier, thus Four Continents will be the final event of their season as Canada has just two spots for the World Championships next month in Los Angeles.

Cathy Reed & Chris Reed of Japan will compete in their second international of the season. After missing Skate America this autumn due to injury and illness, the Reeds made their season debut at NHK Trophy, finishing in eighth. The siblings continue to make strides on the comeback trail, and the event in Vancouver will give them an opportunity to show how much progress they have made.

Maria Borounov & Evgeni Borounov and Danielle O’Brien & Gregory Merriman of Australia and Xintong Huang & Zun Zheng, Jiayue Wang & Chongbo Gau, and Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang of China round out the 12-team roster.