Mar 24, 2014, 4:17 PM EDT
This week the reigning Olympic figure skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu looks to become the first man to win a World Championship gold medal in the same year he stood atop the Olympic podium since 2002.
Hanyu, the 19-year-old from Japan who held on to win gold in Sochi last month against three-time world champion Patrick Chan, will try to win a double gold in 2014 and become the first man to do so since Russian Alexei Yagudin in 2002.
The Championships will be without its three-time and reigning champion in Chan, the Canadian who faltered to a silver medal in Sochi and is sitting out these Worlds to rest and recuperate in looking towards his uncertain future.
The men’s event gets underway Wednesday morning (EST) in Saitama, Japan, and concludes on Friday.
The World Championships, often a depleted field following the Olympics, will be without silver medalist Chan, bronze winner Denis Ten (out with injury), sixth place winner Daisuke Takahashi (a bronze medalist in 2010) and American Jason Brown, who placed ninth.
The U.S. will send reigning national champion Jeremy Abbott (12th in Sochi) and 2013 U.S. champ Max Aaron, who missed out on the Sochi Games by one spot in January.
“Watching my teammates that I thought I was going to go to the Olympics with on TV was the hardest part,” the 22-year-old Aaron told NBCSports.com in a phone interview last week. “That was really tough for me.”
Aaron was seventh at Worlds in 2013 and was seen to be given a vote of confidence by the U.S. Figure Skating Association when selected for Worlds over Brown following Nationals.
The U.S. needs Abbott and Aaron to combine for a 13th-place finish overall to recover a third spot on the international stage, which the U.S. men haven’t had since the 2011 World Championships.
Abbott, who announced this would be his last season prior to the U.S. Championships, said a third spot was not his focus.
“Of course everyone wants the three spots but it’s nobody’s focus,” said the 28-year-old, who had his best Worlds finish in 2010 when he placed fifth following the Vancouver Games. “Everyone wants to do the best that they can do. The two of us are definitely good enough to get back the three spots. Max is very talented and I think I’m capable enough that the two of us combined can do that.”
But Aaron said a third spot will be at the forefront of his mind when he takes to the ice in Saitama.
“I knew that third spot was going to make a difference going into the Olympic year, but we came up a little short,” Aaron said referring to the two U.S. spots the team had for Sochi. “Unfortunately that person was me.”
Finally off to Tokyo! Can’t wait to compete in my second World Championships and represent my country. #TeamUSA
— Max Aaron (@MaxTAaron) March 22, 2014
Hanyu will skate before a figure skating-mad fan base in Japan after becoming the first man in the country’s history to win an Olympic gold medal as well as Japan’s only figure skating medal in Sochi.
He fell twice in his free skate performance at the Iceberg Skating Palace, but the favorite Chan wasn’t better, Hanyu holding on for gold in a competition that was riddled with mistakes and falls.
Without Chan and Ten in the mix, Spain’s Javier Fernandez (fourth at the Sochi Olympics) will be figured into the medal mix after winning the bronze at the same event a year ago and seen to have given up a medal in Sochi.
Other Sochi competitors will factor into the medal conversation along with Hanyu, Fernandez, Abbott and Aaron. Japan’s Tatsuki Machida was fifth at the Olympics, Han Yan of China was seventh, German Peter Liebers was eighth and Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic placed 10th.
Russia will send 18-year-old Maksim Kovtun, the teenager who beat Yevgeny Plushenko at the Russian Championships in December but was skipped over for the veteran for the country’s lone men’s spot in Sochi. Plushenko helped Russia to gold in the team event before pulling out of the individual event, facing ridicule domestically.
“I think people are a lot more relaxed having gone through the Olympics and I think it makes for a really good competition,” said Abbott, who had two disastrous short programs (in the team and individual events) in Sochi before skating mistake-free in the long program. “In 2010, there were some amazing performances and I think this year is going to be no different. It’s still a world-class competition and you’re going to get world-class performances.”
Aaron said it was too early to tell, but that he’d like for Saitama to be the first step in the long road to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
“I can’t look that far ahead,” said the 2014 U.S. bronze medalist. “I have to take it season by season, day by day. I’m focused on what I need to do and the task at hand.”
While Abbott didn’t put a placement expectation on his Worlds effort, Aaron was more forthcoming.
“I’m shooting for a medal to be honest,” he said. “I want those clean performances and I’m hopefully coming away with that third spot for the U.S.”
Icenetwork.com will provide live coverage for subscribers. The men’s short program is set for Wednesday morning (2:45 a.m. EST) and the free skate will take place Friday (4 a.m. EST). NBC will air a World Championships recap show April 13 from 3-6 p.m. ET.
Jul 31, 2015, 10:57 AM EDT
Key swimmers and events to watch.
Jul 31, 2015, 10:55 AM EDT
Action gets started Sunday in Kazan.
Jul 31, 2015, 6:12 AM EDT
Beijing beat Almaty, Kazakhstan, in a very close IOC vote.
Jul 30, 2015, 3:42 PM EDT
A US Sailing official maintained his stance on the Rio water from last year.
Jul 30, 2015, 1:31 PM EDT
Watch the goalie’s interview on The Dan Patrick Show.
Jul 30, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Farah was to have “blood data, supplements data, everything surrounding his medical treatment” investigated.
Jul 30, 2015, 10:12 AM EDT
NBC, NBC Sports Live Extra and Universal Sports will combine for daily coverage.
Jul 30, 2015, 8:08 AM EDT
Either way, the vote will mark an Olympic first.
Jul 29, 2015, 6:27 PM EDT
Felix will be absent from the 200m at Worlds for the first time since 2001.
Jul 29, 2015, 4:49 PM EDT
Biles won’t be eligible to compete collegiately.
Jul 29, 2015, 1:53 PM EDT
It would be tougher for Wambach to make the Rio Olympic team than the 2015 World Cup team.
Jul 29, 2015, 12:19 PM EDT
Rehm has the best long jump by a German this year, but he may have a competitive advantage.
Jul 29, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT
“If you are in the world’s top 50, you should be able to play in the Olympics.”
Jul 29, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT
“I gave up following [Boston 2024] because it was pretty confusing.”
Jul 29, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
The USOC has until Sept. 15 to submit a bid.
Jul 29, 2015, 10:53 AM EDT
Craig wants $5.7 million total for all the whole collection.
Jul 29, 2015, 10:28 AM EDT
Its Olympic qualifying tournament is in less than two months.
Jul 29, 2015, 8:59 AM EDT
Watch Kim play badminton with Michelle Kwan.
Jul 29, 2015, 8:59 AM EDT
Miller said June 15 he could ski a partial 2015-16 season, and a report last week cited Miller saying he would take at least one year off.
Jul 28, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT
One city’s mayor is open to discussions.
- World Swimming Championships women’s preview 0
- World Swimming Championships men’s preview 0
- Beijing to host 2022 Winter Olympics; first city to hold Summer and Winter Games 2
- USOC collecting data on polluted Rio Olympic water venues 0
- World Swimming Championships broadcast schedule 0
- Almaty or Beijing? IOC set to choose 2022 Winter Olympic host 2
- Allyson Felix to run 400m at World Championships 1
- Emotional Bode Miller medals in race that mattered most (61)
- Russian women kissing after relay victory at World Championships causes stir (60)
- IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics (47)
- South Korea filing official complaint over Yuna Kim’s Olympic silver (39)
- Zola Budd, 47, dominates college runners in 5K (33)