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Fantasy skating preview: World Championships

Get Tara Wellman's insider tips on who to choose for the season's last event

Does Tara Wellman think this is how the pairs podium at worlds will shake out?
Does Tara Wellman think this is how the pairs podium at worlds will shake out? (AFP)

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By Tara Wellman, special to icenetwork.com
(03/20/2012) - After a season of fierce competition, it's time to turn our gaze to the shores of Nice, France. It's world championships time, and that means one last round of scores for your fantasy team! Here's a look at who to watch in next week's competition.

Men's - Playing Favorites

Pool A
It's no secret that Patrick Chan is the favorite. But don't forget about Daisuke Takahashi.

Much comparison has been made between the two, but one constant remains: Chan has the added technical content, including two quads, to push him over the top. His season-high international score of 273.94 at the Four Continents Championships makes him the favorite over Takahashi, whose season high of 259.75 came at the NHK Trophy.

The ice is slippery, but it's Chan's title to lose.

Pool B
The way I see it, this group comes down to two men: Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu and Spain's Javier Fernandez.

Hanyu won the head-to-head matchup in Russia by a mere 0.03 points. The Spaniard, however, holds the higher season score of the two, with a 250.33 at Skate Canada, where he bested Chan in the short.

If things go wrong for Hanyu, he often struggles to pull it together. For that reason, Fernandez is my "B" pick.

(Don't lose sight of Adam Rippon and China's Nan Song as potential spoilers!)

Pool C
Consistency in the lower pools is rare. So with Kim Lucine (France), Christopher Caluza (Philippines) and Zoltan Kelemen (Romania) posting consistent 170+ scores, they're a trio to watch.

Lucine has the high score of the group, with a 179.33 at the European championships. Kelemen, though, was not far behind at that event with a 178.02. The two filp-flopped positions at the International Challenge Cup.

Still, Lucine wins my vote in Pool C.

Ladies - The Time Is Now

Pool A
There's a fascinating level of unpredictability with these ladies. Any one of them could, on any given day, be the best.

However, two stand above the rest.

Italy's Carolina Kostner has, arguably, been the cream of the crop this season. Finishing no lower than second at any event this year, she has maintained her consistency. A score of 197.73 at the Challenge Cup is the highest score in the group.

Ashley Wagner, however, is on a mission. That manifested itself at Four Continents, where she posted a 192.41, besting two-time world champ Mao Asada.

Based on her consistency, however, Kostner gets the fantasy nod.

Pool B
Valentina Marchei of Italy was impressive at the Challenge Cup, posting a 171.00, good for second place. Sweden's Viktoria Helgesson has had a strong year. But, again, there's a lack of consistency.

While she's had her troubles, Kanako Murakami continues to improve. If the reigning two-time Japanese bronze medalist keeps her nerves under control, she'll take this group.

Pool C
Keep an eye on Juulia Turkkila of Finland. She scored 130+ in a 17th-place finish at Europeans. However, Ukraine's Natalia Popova bested that mark with a 138+ and a 12th-place finish at the event, showing significant improvement from her 119+ Junior Grand Prix scores.

It's a battle against nerves when there's a lack of experience, but Popova has my vote.

Pairs - Time To Shine

Pool A
It's the battle between the reigning champs and the challengers -- Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany against Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. Yes, Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, Volosozhar and Trankov's country mates, seem to be back at full strength, but the other two teams have been most impressive this season.

Savchenko and Szolkowy topped Volosozhar and Trankov by just 0.18 at the Grand Prix Final, but in an upset, I'm taking the Russians in Pool A.

Pool B
This group will be decided between the Americans and the Canadians.

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford have been on a roll, despite some troubles at Four Continents.

Caydee Denney and John Coughlin have massive tricks, but their lack of intricate transitions could hurt them. Still, Denney and Coughlin's Four Continents score of 187.42 is more than 10 points better than Duhamel and Radford's best score this season, a 176.62 they put up at Trophée Eric Bompard.

Don't eliminate Mary Beth Marley and Rockne Brubaker or Japan's Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran completely, but in a tight race, I pick Denney and Coughlin.

Pool C
Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France boast the only Grand Prix event of the group. However, it's Germany's Mari Vartmann and Aaron Van Cleave who hold the pool's highest score, with a 154.99 at Europeans. James and Cipres finished just behind them in sixth with a score of 151.93.

I'm taking Vartmann and Van Cleave in pool C.

Ice Dance - No Holds Barred

Pool A
Get ready to flip a coin for this one.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada have better Grand Prix scores than Meryl Davis and Charlie White, by fractions of a point. Head-to-head, each team won once: the Americans at the Grand Prix Final and the Canadians at Four Continents. At Four Continents, Davis and White had significantly lower base values, accounting for the 3+ point difference in the final score.

Don't be surprised if this comes down to the short dance, where the Canadians may have more flair, but the Americans have a touch more polish.

In an all-out battle, I pick Virtue and Moir.

Pool B
This group should belong to France's Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat. However, a training accident that resulted in a broken nose for Péchalat threatens to be their downfall. If they are able to compete, will they skate to their typically high level?

If not, it's a race between Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani. The two have flip-flopped all season, with Weaver and Poje winning the most recent battle, finishing third to the Shibutanis' fourth at Four Continents. However, Alex Shibutani was fighting a virus, and the team was adjusting to its new short dance.

This time, I'm going with the Americans.

Pool C
Only one team in this group managed international scores in the 130s, a 133.29 at NHK Trophy. That one team is Lorenza Alessandrini and Simone Vaturi of Italy.

Spain's Sara Hurtado and Adria Daiz are the only other team to compete on the Grand Prix circuit this year. Their season-high score of 117.26 came at Europeans.

The Italians get my vote to win pool C.

Best of luck to the competitors and, of course, to your fantasy team!