Davis and White, Virtue and Moir, Chan skip worldsAmerican, Canadian rivals reconnect; World men's champ waits on future
The 2014 World Figure Skating Championships, which begin March 24 in Saitama, Japan, will crown at least three new champions.
Canada's top stars -- 2010 Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and three-time reigning world champion Patrick Chan -- will not compete. U.S. world and Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White will also sit it out, meaning new ice dance world champions will be crowned for the first time since 2010. There will be a new men's world champion for the first time since 2011.
Reigning ladies world champion Yu-Na Kim announced months ago that the Sochi Olympics would be her final competition. Russia has not yet confirmed its team, but as of now, Olympic and world pairs champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov are the only ones who plan to defend their title in Saitama.
On a Monday afternoon media teleconference, Chan called skipping worlds a relatively easy decision.
"I know myself at this point in my career," the 23-year-old Chan said. "How I feel now was how I felt [for] the last three World Team Trophies (held after worlds). I do not have the best track record there. If I'm not fully invested and attentive to be there, I don't skate well."
As for Virtue and Moir, they decided their performances in Sochi were the perfect way to cap off their 2013-14 campaign.
"It just seems the right way to end the season and to say goodbye to those two programs in particular," Virtue, 24, said.
"We always planned to re-evaluate after the Olympics and see where we [were] at for this season," Moir, 26, said. "I think we are more comfortable trying to take advantage of some opportunities after the Olympic Games. We are very at peace with where we are at."
Virtue and Moir, and Chan, brought home two silver medals each from Sochi, in the individual and team events. On Monday afternoon, neither was ready to call it a career or even to say whether they will compete next season.
"The dust hasn't settled yet," Moir said. "We've been home almost a week now. We'll take some personal time with our families.
"We start Stars on Ice in April in Japan and then we're back in Canada for 12 cities until the end of May. That's our short-term plan. ... We're hoping to find some clarity in that time."
Although still ambivalent, Chan sounded more confident about his competitive future.
"My long, long-term goal is to win another world championship," he said. "I don't even know if I want to go to another Olympics.
"I got off of the plane and sat down in my car and thought, 'I don't feel like this is the end,'" he added.
Whether that meant competing next season or taking a break and returning at a later time, he couldn't say. Although honored by his two silver medals, he expressed disappointment at not bringing home Olympic gold after three world titles.
"One or two mistakes too much," he said. "At that moment, it came out of my grasp."
Both Chan, and Virtue and Moir, will perform in the 12-city Canadian Stars on Ice tour, beginning April 26 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Virtue and Moir will also perform in the Japanese Stars on Ice tour.
"It's kind of the next phase of our career, these two or three months on the road," Moir said. "We don't really need a home base and coach. We're looking forward to working with different choreographers and branching out.
"We want to push ourselves and challenge ourselves with new material. We have a short window to throw some stuff together," he added.
Marina Zoueva coached both Virtue and Moir, and Davis and White, in Canton, Mich., for about 10 years. At a post-event press conference in Sochi, the Canadians acknowledged tension in the camp.
"We sometimes felt like [Zoueva] wasn't in our corner," Moir said then.
During the media call, they again admitted everything was not roses in Canton.
"Some of the things we were honest about at that press conference would come as no surprise to Marina," Virtue said. "She was aware of the situation. Any awkwardness now, we've been feeling for a little while."
Virtue added that tension between the two couples evaporated during two shows they did together in Moscow, shortly after the Sochi closing ceremony.
"We talked more that day than we did in the last few years," she said. "The pressure was off, and we could chat as friends again."
Virtue and Moir's decision opens a worlds spot for Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, fourth at the 2014 Canadian Figure Skating Championships. They join silver medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who placed seventh in Sochi, and bronze medalists Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam, 18th in Sochi.
The absence of both Davis and White -- who are rumored to be competing on ABC's popular Dancing with the Stars -- and Virtue and Moir, leaves Russia's Olympic bronze medalists Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsapolov as favorites in Saitama.
After declaring Sochi was their final competition, two-time French European champions Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat have apparently changed their minds. France nominated them to compete, although they will spend much of this month performing with Art on Ice in Switzerland.
Along with these two teams, Weaver and Poje, 2013 Russian European champions Elena Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, reigning Italian European champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, and U.S. silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates are in the medal hunt in Saitama.
Chan's decision leaves silver medalist Kevin Reynolds, fifth in the world last season, to carry Skate Canada's banner at worlds. The 23-year-old has struggled with equipment problems this season and placed 15th in Sochi. Canadian bronze medalist Liam Firus, 28th in Sochi, does not have the TES (technical elements score) minimum required to compete at worlds. He will be replaced by Elladj Baldé, 23, fourth at the 2014 Canadian Championships. Baldé is coached by Jason Dungjen and Yuka Sato at the Detroit Skating Club.
In a nod to the post-Chan future, Skate Canada named Nam Nguyen, just 15, for the third world spot. Nguyen, fifth at the 2014 Canadian Championships, trains at Toronto's Cricket Skating and Curling Club alongside Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu and two-time European champion Javier Fernández. Their coach, Brian Orser, a two-time Canadian Olympic silver medalist, will oversee all three skaters in Saitama.
Kaetlyn Osmond, 13th in Sochi, and silver medalist Gabrielle Daleman, who placed 17th, comprise the Canadian world ladies team. The country's top three pairs -- champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, seventh in Sochi; silver medalists Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, fourth in Sochi; and bronze medalists Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers, 14th in Sochi -- are all slated to compete.
Adridge, Eaton will make senior worlds debut
With Davis and White out, first alternates Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, fourth at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, were slated to go to Japan. However, Hubbell is undergoing surgery this week for a torn labrum in her left hip.
Two-time U.S. junior champions Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton, winners of world junior bronze medals the last two seasons, will get the nod, joining Chock and Bates and U.S. bronze medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani.
The rest of the U.S. world team remains as it was announced at the 2014 U.S. Championships: Jeremy Abbott and Max Aaron will compete in the men's event; Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds in the ladies' event; and Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, and Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, in the pairs event.