The men’s event at Skate Canada this week looks to be a fairly wide open field – not because it’s a weak field, but because there are some really solid names here, including the current European champion, the current Four Continents champion, a former World silver medalist, and a former U.S. champion.
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GOLD Javier Fernandez ESP – Two bronze medals at Worlds, Fernandez has yet to really put it all together at the biggest stage. Skate Canada, however, has been a great competition for him – it was where he made his breakthrough three years ago and where he upset Patrick Chan two years ago. His wheelhouse is his technical prowess, especially those quads. If he skates cleanly this week, no one is going to have the goods to catch him.
SILVER Max Aaron USA – Strangely enough, this is only going to be Aaron’s second season on the Grand Prix. He’s still a youngster compared to some of the seasoned veterans here, having just burst onto the senior international scene two seasons ago, when he won that U.S. title. His debut skates at U.S. Classic earlier this season were solid, and he’s got a great shot at landing on the podium this week, especially if he puts together a strong short program.
BRONZE Takahito Mura JPN – Mura, who was looking very much like he was on his way to the Olympics, got lost somewhere last season. In the end, he was nowhere near Olympic contention, but still was able to finish his season strongly with a win at Four Continents. His debut at Japan Open earlier this month was solid, but he will need to be more consistent to challenge for the gold this week.
4. Adam Rippon USA – Nationals was something of a disaster for Rippon last season, especially since he had such a roaring start, showing off some new technical goodness. But he’s back this season and started strongly with a silver at Finlandia. Clean skates will do him a ton of good this week, even without the quad, as he’s got some of the strongest pure skating in the field.
5. Michal Brezina CZE – Tenth at the Olympics for a second straight time, Brezina was starting to find his groove again last season after a good bit of inconsistency. He’s returned to his former coach, perhaps recognizing that his past few seasons’ programs have not really been up to his capabilities. A silver at Nebelhorn last month was a good start to his season.
6. Konstantin Menshov RUS – Right behind Brezina at Nebelhorn was Menshov, who may be the most unheralded Russian male skater right now (and for a few seasons). Always with a solid quad in hand, Menshov will need to be clean and then some to have a chance at a medal in Canada.
7. Takahiko Kozuka JPN – One of the few in this field who is in his third Olympic cycle, Kozuka is coming off a disappointing season in which he missed out on a second Olympic berth even though he took bronze at Japanese Nationals (see: Mirai Nagasu). His debut this season at Japan Open was a disaster for his standards, and his programs are high-risk, so unless something drastic has happened in the past few weeks since that competition, it’s unlikely that he will make much of an impact this week.
8. Stephen Carriere USA – It’s tough to believe that Carriere won his Junior World title eight seasons ago. He’s perservered through a lot of disappointments and inconsistency, and he started his season off terrifically with a win at Ondrej Nepela. Hitting the jumps will do him a world of good in front of the international judges, who haven’t always seen him at his best. If he can put together two clean programs, he could very well be up in the top five fighting for a medal.
9. Florent Amodio FRA – Once a potential-filled up-and-comer, Amodio has been on a downward trajectory since winning Europeans four seasons ago. Was it coaching? Was it commitment? Was it expectations? It’s tough to figure him out. His seventh place in a relatively weak field at Lombardia Trophy does not bode well for the turnaround that he’s looking for.
10. Andrei Rogozine CAN – A late entrant to the field after teammate Kevin Reynolds withdrew, the former World junior champ is still trying to find his way in the senior ranks.
11. Liam Firus CAN – The Canadian bronze medalist is a beautiful skater to watch, but the jumps are not quite up to the level of the rest of his skating. He was ninth at Nebelhorn, and it’s tough to see him up there this week in this strong field.