By Richard Pryor III
Normally, Pryor Inquires starts off with a fun little dialogue between me and a questioner about sports. But not today. Because now it’s time for the rest of the world to pay attention to one of my favorite sports – figure skating.
That’s right, it’s the Winter Olympics and it’s figure skating time. Five different events will be held (Men’s Singles, Ladies’ Singles, Pair Skating, Ice Dancing, and the Team Event), so it’s time to get out your skates and hope the Russian judge doesn’t send you home with a 3.
As I am writing this, I am watching the last event of the night in PyeongChang, team ice dancing. I am not going to deliver a #HotTake on this because the event is over and we have not won. I wasn’t expecting us to, but still.
But what about for the other events? Let’s start off with Men’s Singles, where the man to beat is Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and World champion. He is known for his grace on the ice, but has dealt with injuries and only resumed training in early January. Also notable is the fact that Japan decided to let him rest during the Team Event, so we have no idea how healthy he is. Current Grand Prix and US Champion Nathan Chen is being touted as the most likely option to defeat Hanyu, with his five types of quad jumps (four rotations in the jump) including the Olympics’ first ever quadruple flip. However, he fell on a triple axel during the short program section of the Team event, where he finished fourth. So there is room to worry for the US’s chances of a second Men’s Singles gold medal in the last three olympics.
Most of that worrying will be caused by three men: former World Champion Patrick Chan of Canada, World Runner-up Shoma Uno of Japan, and former World Champion Javier Fernandez of Spain. Both Chan and Uno outperformed Chen in the Team short program, but Fernandez didn’t compete. So considering most men’s competitions these days are a “who can do the most quad jumps” competition, it’ll probably be Hanyu, assuming he’s healed.
In Women’s Singles, the US’s hopes lie on Mirai Nagasu, who became the third female skater to land a triple axel at the Olympics and still didn’t win the Team free skate, Karen “probably overrated” Chen, and current US Champion Bradie “Who?” Tennell. In her first full season at the senior level, Tennell won the bronze medal at Skate America and then followed that up with a win at the US championships, up from ninth in 2017. However, it will probably be won by a teenaged Russian again. Reigning World Champion Evgenia Medvedeva and reigning Grand Prix, European, and Russian Champion Alina Zagitova seem to be the most likely winners, but I would give the edge to Zagitova because she not only defeated Medvedeva in the European Championships, but Medvedeva has had some recent injury problems. However, I believe that they will go 1-2, as they both defeated the most decorated European female figure skater, Carolina Kostner of Italy, who earned the bronze medal in 2014, in the Team event.
Pairs Skating, I should note for the record, is like regular figure skating but two people are doing it. Pairs has also historically been the weakest event for the Americans, who only have one entry, the husband and wife team of Alexa and Chris Knierim. The field, which is almost exactly the same as last year’s World Championships field, leads to me believing that one of the top three teams from the Worlds, China’s Sui Wenjing/Han Cong, Germany’s Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot, or OAR’s Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov will end up with the win. But then, this is the red-headed step-child of Olympic figure skating. Who really cares other than their families and coaches?
And the final event is Ice Dancing, everyone’s favorite after 2014 saw the US’s Meryl Davis/Charlie White combo win gold. And this is like regular figure skating except they’re adding elements of ballroom dance to it. Now that Davis/White have retired, the US turns to the duos of Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (the “ShibSibs”) and Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue to continue our three-Games medal streak in Ice Dancing. Either team is a serious threat to make the podium, but in my mind, the two main contenders for the gold medal are the World Champions Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron of France or 2010 Olympic Champions and 2014 Olympic Runners-up Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir of Canada, in what is probably one of their final events before retirement. We don’t know how well the Papadakis/Cizeron pair has adjusted to PyeongChang because they didn’t skate during the Team event, but the Virtue/Moir pairing defeated the ShibSibs in both parts of the Team event.
I would like to end this article not with a fun pun, joke, or insight, but a plea. If you enjoy watching these events, don’t stop when the Olympics are over. The World Championships are in March, and the Grand Prix season lasts from October to December. Both of these are regularly televised in the US. The Challenger Series lasts from September to December and you can watch clips on YouTube.