by Katie Tetzloff | Photo by Robin Ritoss
For the first time ever, China will host the ISU Figure Skating World Championships. The event will be held in Shanghai, China’s most populous city, which also hosted Cup of China this season. In this year’s ice dance competition, 31 teams representing 23 countries will compete. All teams had to achieve minimum Technical Element Scores of 29 and 39 in the short and free dances, respectively, at an ISU event within the past two seasons to qualify. As the competition has been close this year in past events, many of these teams will need to skate their best for a chance at a spot in the top five or on the podium.
The favorites for gold are Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje. They are the current World silver medalists, and this has been a breakout season for them. They have won every event they have entered, including Nebelhorn Trophy, Skate Canada International, NHK Trophy, the Grand Prix Final, the Canadian National Championships, and the Four Continents Championships. Weaver & Poje have earned the current highest ISU season’s score of 181.14. Last year, when they won the silver medal, they were only .02 away from the title. A gold medal at the 2015 World Championships, which would be their first, would really top off the perfect season for this experienced team.
Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier will also be representing Canada. This season, they placed second at both of their Grand Prix events, ultimately qualifying for their first Grand Prix Final, where they placed fifth. After just missing the 2014 Sochi Olympics and having placed eighth at the 2014 World Championships, Gilles & Poirier hope to place in the top five at this year’s event. Canada will also be sending 2014 Olympians Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam, who were tenth at the 2014 World Championships. Paul & Islam struggled on the Grand Prix circuit, but changed their free dance before the Canadian Championships.
Madison Chock & Evan Bates of the United States are also aiming for a podium spot. This team has battled Weaver & Poje all season, but have consistently placed behind them. During the 2014-2015 season, they won both of their Grand Prix events and won the silver medal at the Grand Prix Final. After winning the U.S. National Championships, they placed second at the Four Continents Championships in South Korea. Their season’s best score is 176.18.
The United States is also sending Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani, the seasoned sibling duo. This team also placed second at both Grand Prix events before qualifying for the Final, where they placed fourth. After placing second at the U.S. Championships, they earned the bronze medal at Four Continents. At the Shibutanis’ first World Championships in 2011, they landed on the podium in third, but since then, they have placed out of the top five and hope to change that this year. The third team representing the United States is Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue. They competed at the 2012 World Championships, finishing tenth, but have not returned to the event since then. They earned the bronze medal at both Skate Canada and rophée Eric Bompard, as well as the bronze medal at the U.S. Championships.
A team that has made an incredible leap this year is Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron, who represent France. After moving to Montreal to train last summer, they have been receiving exceptional results, especially for a team so young at only 19 and 20 years of age, respectively. With a nearly perfect season so far, this French team won both of their assigned Grand Prix events, Trophée Eric Bompard and Cup of China, before finishing third at the Grand Prix Final. They also are the current European Champions with a season’s best score of 179.97. Last year, they were 13th at the World Championships, but they expect to place much higher this time around. Although France was allotted two teams to send to this year’s Worlds, Papadakis & Cizeron will be the country’s only representatives in the ice dance event.
The reigning World Champions, Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte of Italy (pictured), will be competing in their ninth Worlds. As one of the most experienced teams and the current title-holders, they definitely have an advantage. However, this season they placed third at Cup of China and withdrew from their second Grand Prix event. They placed second at the European Championships last month, behind Papadakis & Cizeron. Their season’s best score is 171.52.
Russia will be sending three teams to China: Elena Ilinykh & Ruslan Zhiganshin, Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin, and Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin. While none are favorites for the title, the teams are similar in abilities and it is plausible that any (or all) of them could end up in the top five with terrific performances. Although Ilinykh & Zhiganshin both have extensive competitive international experience with former partners, this is their first season competing together. After competing at two Grand Prix events and qualifying for the Grand Prix Final, they won the Russian National Championships and placed fourth at the European Championships, preparing them for a strong competition at the World Championships.
Monko & Khaliavin will be competing at their very first senior-level World Championships this week. The 2011 world junior champions made the jump to the senior level in 2011, but have only begun to pick up steam this season. They placed fourth and second at their two Grand Prix events earlier this season and tenth at the European championships. Their teammates, Stepanova & Bukin, will also be competing for the first time at the World Championships. They are also former world junior champions, having won the title in 2013. Just a few weeks ago, they won the bronze medal at the European Championships and, therefore, may be the Russian team with the most momentum heading into Shanghai.
The ice dance begins on the morning of Wednesday, March 25 with the short dance and
finishes on the morning of Friday, March 27 with the free dance. For North Americans who want
to watch live, this translates to Tuesday and Thursday evening events.