Road to the 2023 World Championships in Japan
In this episode, we discuss the favorites, the long shots, and all of the in-betweens leading up to the 2023 World Championships happening this week.
This season has been the deepest dive we’ve personally taken into figure skating in a very long time, and looking back — for all of the post-Olympic year doldrums and troubling political issues that are very real — there’s a lot of skaters to be excited about leading into the biggest competition of the year.
Let’s start with the men:
Shoma Uno’s been incredible this season — and is undefeated since he won his first World Title last year. He’s unmatched in this competition in terms of being the “whole package”, and won’t be beatable if he’s clean. If he falters, it’s WIDE OPEN.
Who could podium? Or even win if Shoma has an off day?
Ilia “Quad God” Malinin has been hot and cold all season, but if he drops another quad axel and skates even close to clean, his scores will be huge.
Sota Yamamoto has been steady and strong all season…though not always the most compelling. His jumps are gorgeous, though, and they might carry him to a medal.
Could Keegan Messing show up for his final World Championship and skate like he did a Four Continents? Wouldn’t that be a dream!
Adam Saio Him Fa has made a big move this year, and is a skater on the rise. If he can hold it together, he’s a threat.
Matteo Rizzo has gotten better and better this season, and could be in the mix.
Junhwan Cha is so great — has the “it” factor for sure — but hasn’t been his best this year. If he’s on, he’s a contender, though.
Our long shot and my whole heart for this competition: Jason Brown skating clean and bringing his special magic to the sport.
What about the Women? Oh, there’s just as many “could be on the podium” talents there if not more!
Kaori Sakamoto is absolutely the favorite (and, personally, our favorite — because Kaori!) though she’s had some “iffy” competitions this season. Hoping for a repeat, but if not her, than who?
Mai Mihara has been stellar all season and has come back into her own after a few down years. We love her, her programs are gorgeous (that short program!), and she has beaten Kaori this year. Don’t count her out for the win!
Isabeau Levito is a force… and a threat. She’ll want to wipe clean the memory of Four Continents where she had to withdraw at the very last minute — and she could, with a killer performance here.
Yelim Kim and Haein Lee from South Korea are both medal possibilities. Yelim has been strong all year long, but has skated A LOT this season… maybe too much? Whereas Haien Lee is coming off a big surprise win at Four Continents and has momentum on her side.
Loena Hendrickx should be in the mix — possibly even in the hunt for silver — but after a really rough second half of the season, she’s a big maybe.
Then there’s a LONG list of maybe’s like Bradie Tennell, Amber Glenn, Rinka Wantanabe, Chaeyeon Kim, and Anastasia Gubanova. On the right day for them and wrong for others? They could be up there.
Onto Pairs… which is sadly less competitive than all other disciplines this season. Really, there are two teams.
Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara from Japan. That’s it. They are the winners. Okay… not that simple… but wow they are great and have “everything” including the emotional punch. If they are clean, there is only one team that stands a chance of being between them and gold:
Reigning World Champs Alexa Knerim and Brandon Fraser. They are strong, bold, fast, and compelling. What is sadly not on their side is the current medical crisis for their coach, Todd Sand. Hoping they can skate their best here, but it’ll be difficult.
Who’s in the mix other than them? Well, what is likely the battle for the bronze will be between Canada, Italy, and the US.
Deanna Stelatto Dudek and Maxime Duchamps started out this season incredibly well, but dealt with health issues that caused struggle since. However, when they are on… they are WOW.
Sara Conti and Niccolò Macii won the European title and have been steadily moving up this season as Italy makes its push towards being a factor in all disciplines for the home field Milano Cortina Olympic Games in 2026.
Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe just had their personal best at Four Continents and are looking better than they ever have. If they can keep it going, a medal is within reach here.
Ice Dance Competition
And lastly, all the intense (and gorgeous) drama of Dance — which, in our opinion, will be the closest competition of the event!
Gold is likely between two iconic teams — Piper Gilles and Paul Porier of Canada and Madison Chock and Evan Bates from the US.
On paper, Chock and Bates are the favs with the highest international score of the season and reigning medalists from the last Worlds. BUT, Piper and Paul have KILLED IT this season and are Grand Prix Champs. This one is too tough to call. Our hearts are with Maddie and Evan, but we would not be sad (or surprised) to see Piper and Paul win with their two phenomenal programs this season.
Who else is in the hunt? A bevy of incredible talents, technicians, and up-and-comers:
Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen from Canada have stepped up this season and made sure they are not forgotten. Superb skaters who absolutely could get a medal of any color on the right day.
Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri from Italy are technical wizards and now European Champs. They are not always the easiest team to “connect” with, but their skills cannot be denied.
Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson from Great Britain are probably not going to medal, but if you can manage to find their programs online, expect to fall in love. They’ve moved up big time this season, but a medal is (probably) still just out of reach.
And finally, if you love good sport stories, then do not miss Kana Moramoto and (men’s single skating legend) Daisuke Takahashi. He is the 2010 Olympic bronze medalist and 2010 World champion in men’s singles. To see him again at World’s in ice dance (at 37, which is ancient in skating) is inspiring! We love this team — who cares about medals?!