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Five things to watch for at worlds: Men with quads

Advanced technique rules the day for top challengers in London, Ontario

Two-time reigning world champion Patrick Chan may struggle to win gold at home.
Two-time reigning world champion Patrick Chan may struggle to win gold at home. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/11/2013) - The ice age is upon us in London, Ontario, where practices at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships have commenced. Here are five storylines to follow in the men's battle:

1. Quad Squad:

The men's ammunition may be summed up in three words: quads, quads, quads. Javier Fernández hit four in two programs when he won Spain's first-ever European title in January. Canadian silver medalist Kevin Reynolds duplicated that feat to win the 2013 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. Patrick Chan, Daisuke Takahashi and Yuzuru Hanyu all plan three quads -- one in the short, two in the free -- in London.

Here's a shorthand tale of the quads for some of the contenders, using quad attempts in their most recent international events:

Skater
Quad(s) in short
Quad(s) in free
Base Value
Javier Fernández1 Salchow 2 Salchows, 1 Toe41.8
Kevin Reynolds1 Salchow 2 Toes, 1 Salchow41.6
Florent Amodio1 Salchow2 Salchows31.5
Max Aaron1 Salchow2 Salchows31.5
Michal Brezina1 Salchow2 Salchows31.5
Yuzuru Hanyu1 Toe1 Toe, 1 Salchow31.3
Patrick Chan1 Toe2 Toes30.9
Daisuke Takahashi1 Toe2 Toes30.9

Depending on how well a quad is landed and the layout of the rest of their programs, skaters may add a double or triple toe to notch up to another 4.1 points. Judges add or subtract from the base value depending on execution. Jumps done in the second half gain a 10 percent bonus.

This table may end up being out of date. Fernández has talked of doing four quads in his free skate, and Reynolds has executed two in his short in the past. As Max Aaron's coach, Tom Zakrajsek, said at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, "The days of doing no quad in the short, and maybe even the days of doing just one quad in the free, are over."

2. The state of Chan:

At age 22, the two-time world champion would seem to be in his physical prime. But a coaching change away from technician Christy Krall, widely credited with helping to improve the Canadian's quad toe and triple Axel, combined with shaky performances this season, could make him vulnerable, even as he competes in his home province of Ontario.

3. Aaron's artistry:

The forthright U.S. champion freely admits he's not Baryshnikov on ice. He's also a bit of a newcomer: His fourth-place finish at the 2013 Four Continents Championships last month was his first at the ISU championships level, and he has never competed in a Grand Prix event. How will this panel of international judges warm to the hard-charging former hockey player's style?

4. Emergence of a dark, or at least gray, horse:

With quad- and triple Axel-packed programs, a few meltdowns are expected. Who could emerge to fill the gap? In 2011, Artur Gachinski, then just 17, won world bronze; last season, another 17-year-old, Hanyu, jumped his way to bronze. While neither was an unknown (Hanyu won junior worlds in 2010) their fast ascendancy took many off guard.

5. Counting on Kovtun:

Russia's hopes to secure two men's spots for the 2014 Sochi Olympics ride on the shoulders of Maxim Kovtun, a 17-year-old who placed fifth at the 2013 Russian Championships. The teen was sent to Europeans instead of Russian bronze medalist Konstantin Menshov.

Kovtun hit his quads and placed fifth at Europeans, gaining his country's sole men's spot at worlds. If he places in the top 10 -- a tough task -- Russia will have two men in Sochi, but if he finishes, say, 16th or higher, depending on how other countries perform, a Russian man may have to fight to qualify an Olympic spot at Nebelhorn Trophy in September.