Four Continents in an Olympic year is always a strange beast, often scarce on the Olympians, especially the ones from whichever continent it’s not being held on, and often shrugged off as very weak, even now, when more top skaters attend than used to. But something I noticed this time was there was really an indication of the next generation rising here, which will happen as younger stars who weren’t quite ready to make the Olympics yet get to really show their stuff at 4CC instead, but this time it was the dominant theme, especially among the medalists. The medals seemed less consolation prizes, the way they largely did in 2010, and more steps for next quadrennium’s stars to build on. It helps that now that Takahiko Kozuka has said he’s going to stick around, none of the medalists seem likely to retire.
The biggest breakthroughs might have been Satoko Miyahara & Kayne & O’Shea, although for very different reasons. In Miyahara’s case, it looked like she wasn’t going to follow up on potential, that downgrades were going to keep her from ever reaching even the top of Japanese skating, let alone the international scene. But this showing is indication that she need not be written off just yet. In Kayne & O’Shea’s case, beating both the other two much more hyped American pairs on so high profile a stage might be just what they need to be taken seriously as contenders in the US pairs field. This could be the difference between their getting onto the Grand Prix next fall or not. Then they’ll need to follow up on this, but the important part here was creating the opportunity to do that, which they have. In the men the skaters were more broken through already(and Song’s bronze was definitely the most “consolation prize” medal of the competition), but in the ice dance too, the medals were statement-making, especially for Aldridge & Eaton, getting a valuable result in their first year as senior.
Meanwhile, all across the ladies field skaters used this competition to help establish themselves. Even the two Olympians on the podium are both young enough that one expects further progress from them next quaddrenium, from Zijun Li especially(Murakami’s already very far advanced, but for her World medals and more are very much steps to come). Perhaps it was because two Olympians were hogging the podium that the likes of Imai and Hicks were making statements too with their results elsewhere in the top five-like Miyahara, Imai needed something to show she’s not done in yet. And while this competition wasn’t as vital for Hae-Jin Kim, since she is going to Sochi, she too comes up with a result here that is no doubt much needed for Korean skating still struggling to establish a viable post-Yu-na presence in the world.
On the other hand, part of the reason for these breakthroughs is those Americans that might have most avenged their failures to make the Olympics fell sadly short. Watching both Adam and Mirai struggle was particularly painful. The former it seems still can’t put it together, and I hate to say it, but if the latter doesn’t get her spark back the staying on her feet for the jumps can really only get her so much. I know people were hoping Mirai would stick it to the USFSA here; instead she managed to justify their decision. More than one Canadian singles skater suffered the same fate, though at least Gilles & Poirier didn’t.
Though maybe the worst fate still awaits Michael Christian Martinez. You hope whatever kept him out of this doesn’t keep him out of the Olympics. It’ll be an anxious wait for news…