April 25th, 2024

Five things to know for the figure skating world championships in Montreal

By Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press on March 19, 2024.

The world’s best figure skaters descend on Montreal this week for the 2024 International Skating Union world championships. Holly Harris and Jason Chan, from Australia, perform their ice dance routine during practice on Monday, March 18, 2024 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL – The world’s best figure skaters descend on Montreal this week for the 2024 International Skating Union world championships.

The competition goes Wednesday through Saturday at the Bell Centre, home of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. Here’s a look at five things to know heading into the event:

BACK IN MONTREAL

Four years later, the world championships are back.

Montreal was supposed to host the worlds in 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the competition mere days before it was set to begin.

Skate Canada submitted a new application to finally bring the worlds back to Quebec’s biggest city this year. It’s Montreal’s first time hosting the event since the first time it took place on Canadian soil in 1932.

It’s also Canada’s 11th time hosting the competition and its first time since 2013 in London, Ont.

HOME SOIL HOPES

Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps represent Canada’s best shot at a medal this week. The 40-year-old Stellato-Dudek and 32-year-old Deschamps are two-time reigning Canadian champions in pairs. They’ve also won three Grand Prix gold medals over the last two seasons and claimed first at the Four Continents Championships last month in Shanghai.

Stellato-Dudek and Deschamp finished fourth at the worlds last year. They enter this year’s competition ranked second in the ISU’s standings behind Italy’s Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii. Reigning gold medallists Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan are still returning to form after Kihara missed three months with a back injury late last year.

Decorated Canadian ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier are hoping to upgrade the world championship bronze medals they’ve now won twice. Gilles and Poirier won Canada’s only medal with a third-place finish last year just months after Gilles underwent surgery for ovarian cancer. They also won bronze in 2021.

The three-time national champions – including this January in Calgary – are coming off a gold medal of their own at the Four Continents and currently rank fourth in ISU ice dancing. Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri are ranked first, while last year’s champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the U.S. – who train in Montreal – are third.

CANADIAN CONTROVERSY

The world championships are shrouded in some controversy after ice dancer Nikolaj Sorensen was named to Canada’s team for the competition despite facing sexual assault allegations.

Sorensen and partner Laurence Fournier Beaudry withdrew from the Canadian championship in January after USA Today reported an American figure skating coach and former skater accused Sorensen of sexually assaulting her in Hartford, Conn., in 2012. Sorensen has denied the allegations, which have not been proven in court.

Skate Canada chief executive officer Debra Armstrong said the federation did not consider leaving the duo off the Canadian team because they qualified through the selection criteria.

National champions in 2023, Sorensen and Fournier Beaudry returned to competition for the Four Continents and won a silver medal. They rank fifth in the ISU standings.

SINGLES SLUMP

Canada hasn’t won a worlds medal in singles since Kaetlyn Osmond captured gold in Milan in 2018 – and that isn’t likely to change this year.

Beijing Olympian Madeline Schizas of Oakville, Ont., is the lone Canadian women’s singles skater. A two-time national champion, Schizas fell short of a three-peat when she lost to 17-year-old Kaiya Ruiter in January. The 21-year-old Schizas has competed at three world championships, finishing a career-best 12th in 2022. She ranks 15th in the ISU standings.

Wesley Chiu of Vancouver and Roman Sadovsky of Vaughan, Ont., represent the Canadian men. Chiu, 18, won the national championship for a first time this year and will compete at his first worlds. He ranks 22nd, while Sadovsky is 35th. No Canadian man has medalled since Patrick Chan in 2013.

THREE-PEAT?

Uno Shoma and Sakamoto Kaori are going for three-peats in singles. The Japanese skaters will try to become the first man and woman to win three in a row simultaneously since Emmerich Danzer of Austria and Peggy Fleming of the U.S. did so from 1966 to 1968.

Sakamoto is a heavy favourite to make three-in-a-row on the women’s side. The 23-year-old put up a season-high score of 226.13 at Skate Canada last year and ranks first in the ISU standings. Sakamoto’s biggest challenger is Loena Hendrickx of Belgium, who won bronze in 2023 and silver in 2022.

Shoma faces a stiffer test. Rising 19-year-old American Ilia Malinin leads the ISU rankings with two Grand Prix gold medals this year, including a win over Shoma in the GP final in December. Olympic silver medallist Yuma Kagiyama of Japan and Adam Siao Him Fa of France have also won GP events this season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2024.

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