by Matteo Morelli
Saitama Super Arena is ready to welcome the event that will crown the world champions of this season. This is going to be the third time in last ten years that Saitama hosts this event, having also hosted it in 2014 and 2019.
With all the Grand Prix, national and continental events completed, we are in a position of being able to try to draw a picture of what the contention for the medals might look like and who is likely to take the title that is currently owned by Olympic Champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France.
The Medal Hunt
USA’s Madison Chock & Evan Bates are currently the team that earned the highest score this season, with their 220.81 points at Four Continents. The four-time U.S. champions started the season with programmes that needed some work and evolved competition by competition, but at this point in the season they are showing the quality skating that they are capable of and will aim at that world’s gold medal that is still missing from their collection of victories.
Also targeting the gold medal are Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, with a score of 219.49 earned at the Grand Prix of Espoo. The Canadian duo had a very strong start of the season, with their Evita free programme convincing the judges and audiences and allowing them to earn their first Grand Prix Final gold medal. Although they missed Canadian nationals in January due to Gilles undergoing an appendectomy, what they have recently shared on their social media shows that they are back in full strength and ready to fight for that medal.
The bronze medal position is open and, with some strong teams in contention for it, anything will be possible.
Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen earned their first Canadian national title and a silver medal at Four Continents, showing that they could be a threat to strong and experienced teams out there this season. With a score of 214.08 earned at that event, they will do their best to try to allow Canada to end with two teams on the podium.
Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri won their first European title and confirmed their great shape this season. The very experienced team recorded a season and personal best of 213.74 at the 2022 MK John Wilson Trophy Grand Prix and will do all they can to earn a world medal that is still missing to them.
Great Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson are also having a very strong season, with a Grand Prix Final qualification and a European silver medal adding to their growing collection of results.
USA’s Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker withdrew from the event to focus on their mental health. Taking their place and joining Caroline Green and Michael Parsons are Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko, bronze medalists at the 2023 U.S. nationals.
Also having a very good season and hoping to impress are Finland’s Juulia Turkkila and Matthias Versluis, who won a European bronze medal at the event hosted by their own country, and Allison Reed and Saulius Ambrulevičius, who were fourth at the European Championships.
Event info: Teams have official practices from Monday, March 20. The rhythm dance kicks off on Friday, March 24, at 11:00am (JST); the free dance occurs on Saturday, March 25, at 12:30pm (JST).
- The event will see 33 teams representing 27 countries competing on the ice.
- Three of the teams competing at this event have also competed at the other two World Championships that Saitama Super Arena hosted in 2014 and 2019: Chock/Bates, Gilles/Poirier, Guignard/Fabbri.
- Out of all the teams competing, six of them also competed at the last World Championships in Saitama in 2019: Chock/Bates, Gilles/Poirier, Guignard/Fabbri, Fournier Beaudry/Sørensen, Fear/Gibson, and Reed/ Ambrulevičius.
- This event has some very experienced teams: this is going to be the 10th World Championships for Chock/Bates and Gilles/Poirier, and the 11th for Guignard/Fabbri.
- Two teams have already earned a World title before: a silver and two bronze medals for Chock and Bates, a bronze medal for Gilles and Poirier.
- 12 teams will be competing at a Senior World Championships for the first time.
- Estonia’s Solène Mazingue and Marko Jevgeni Gaidajenko are listed as taking part to the event. This is going to be the team’s first event this season after a serious injury took Mazingue to hospital in autumn last year and forced her to take a lot of time off the ice to recover.