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Figure skating and controversy appear to go hand in hand, and final season was a stronger instance of that than most.
In February, the Beijing Winter Olympics have been rocked by a doping scandal involving 15-year-old ladies’s gold-medal favorite Kamila Valieva, who was allowed to proceed competing after a drug check she took again on Christmas Day lastly got here again constructive for a banned coronary heart treatment. Valieva crumbled beneath the scrutiny, stumbling to a fourth-place end in the ladies’s competitors. But she and her Russian teammates have been allowed to maintain their victory in the group occasion pending an investigation (extra on that later).
Four days after the closing ceremony in Beijing, Russia invaded Ukraine. Like a lot of sports activities’ world governing our bodies, figure skating’s promptly banned Russian and Belarussian athletes, inflicting them to overlook the world championships in late March. That eradicated the reigning world champs in three of the 4 disciplines and, in the minds of some, hooked up an asterisk to a lot of the medals.
WATCH | Previewing the Grand Prix at Skate America:
As the 2022-23 Grand Prix of Figure Skating season will get set to raise off Friday night time close to Boston, the Valieva saga and the Russian/Belarussian ban proceed to hold over the sport. Here’s the newest on these issues, plus another storylines to comply with this season:
Russians aren’t round, however their shadow stays
Eight months after the Russian Anti-Doping Agency mentioned it will open an investigation into Valieva’s constructive check, the deeply corrupt group (sure, the identical one which performed a key function in the nation’s large, state-sponsored doping scheme) remains to be dragging its toes on that course of. This is inflicting frustration for skaters from different international locations concerned in the Olympic group occasion (together with fourth-place Canada) who’re in line for a medal improve if the Russians are disqualified. Read extra about that right here.
Meanwhile, Russian and Belarussian athletes stay persona non grata in the figure skating neighborhood. Skating’s world governing physique determined in June to increase its ban on athletes from Russia and Belarus and to not maintain any worldwide competitions in these international locations “till additional discover.” Russia has historically hosted certainly one of the six common stops on the Grand Prix circuit, however this 12 months’s (in late November) was moved to Finland.
In lieu of the Grand Prix, Russians will compete in their very own shadow circuit of six occasions to be held round the nation at the identical time as the Grand Prix. Valieva is amongst these slated to skate in the opener in Moscow, which begins Friday.
WATCH | Catching up on Russian figure skating:
The Grand Prix season is lastly again to regular (form of)
For the first time in three years, skaters will not have to fret about competing in empty arenas and season champions can be topped as the Grand Prix Final returns to the calendar in December in Italy. The Final — reserved for the prime six in every of the 4 disciplines, based mostly on ends in the common stops — was cancelled the final two years attributable to COVID-19 restrictions in the host international locations (China in 2020 and Japan final 12 months).
The shadow of the pandemic, although, continues to loom over the Grand Prix. With China nonetheless clinging to harsh COVID-19 measures, its annual cease on the circuit (cancelled final 12 months) was moved to England.
Apart from the aforementioned relocation of the Russian cease to Finland, the remainder of the Grand Prix is comfortingly acquainted. After the conventional Skate America opener in the United States this weekend, the sequence continues, as ordinary, with Skate Canada — being held this 12 months in Mississauga, Ont., beginning subsequent Friday. Then it is off to France, England, Japan and Finland earlier than the Final in Italy. Skaters are allowed to enter as much as two of the common occasions. All of these, plus the Final, can be streamed reside on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem, with further protection of sure occasions on the CBC TV community. See the full streaming and broadcast schedule right here.
Can the Quad God save the sport?
With all the unhealthy, Russian-related vibes round figure skating proper now, the arrival of Ilia Malinin may hardly come at a greater time. The 17-year-old American phenom (whose dad and mom are Russian-born former singles skaters that competed primarily for Uzbekistan) had already branded himself the “quadg0d” on social media earlier than he pulled off the most spectacular bounce in the historical past of the sport final month.
Skating at a lower-tier occasion in Lake Placid, N.Y., Malinin turned the first individual ever to land a quadruple Axel in competitors. The 4½-rotation bounce — the most troublesome in the quad household and the final one to be conquered — occurred in entrance of just about no followers. But video of Malinin’s feat unfold virally all through the skating world, which had seen present Olympic males’s champion Nathan Chen solely toy with the quad Axel in observe and former Olympic champ Yuzuru Hanyu attempt unsuccessfully to land it at this 12 months’s Games.
With Chen stepping away from the sport after his Olympic victory, Hanyu asserting his retirement in July and Russia’s dominant ladies all banned from competitors, the teenage Malinin might be figure skating’s essential attraction this season. He’ll make his senior-level debut at Skate America, the place the males’s occasion begins Friday night time at 8:50 p.m. ET. Watch it reside right here.
Can Canada get away of its stoop?
Canadian figure skating hasn’t been the identical since the nice Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir walked away after successful their second Olympic ice dance gold in 2018. Virtue and Moir additionally helped Canada to gold in the group occasion at these Games, whereas Kaetlyn Osmond (ladies’s) and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (pairs) took bronze. Since the following season, Canadians have received simply two medals at the world championships — a bronze by ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier in 2021 and a pairs bronze by Radford and Vanessa James at the badly depleted 2022 worlds. At final winter’s Olympics, Canada was shut out of the medals utterly for the first time since 1980.
As the new Grand Prix season will get underway with out the retired Radford and James, Gilles and Poirier stay Canada’s most constant podium menace whereas 2019 world junior champions Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha are additionally price watching in ice dance (each tandems will make their seasons debut subsequent week at Skate Canada). In singles, 19-year-old Madeline Schizas will attempt to construct on her robust efficiency in the Olympic group occasion, whereas 17-year-olds Stephen Gogolev and Wesley Chiu are fascinating prospects in the males’s division.