By, Katie Pierce
Figure Skating Worlds 2017 was a big one. Final rankings this year determined the number of spots each team could send to the 2018 Olympics, so a lot was on the line. Not only did the skaters have certain places set in their minds, they also had records that they were aiming for.
For the ladies, not surprisingly, Yevgenia Medvedeva from Moscow took the gold, defending her title and being the first to do so since Michelle Kwan in 2000 and 2001. For the USA team, skaters Ashley Wagner, Karen Chen, and Mariah Bell were not only all aiming for medals, but for two skaters to finish in the top 10 to guarantee the USA three spots at the Olympics. Chen, even with a mistake in her freeskate, secured a spot in fourth place overall (and first in my heart). Personally, I think Wagner is overrated and needs to step aside to give someone else the ice, but she did what she came out to do. While she did not get a medal, she was able to come in seventh, giving the USA the two top ten finishes they needed.
Nathan Chen made his debut at Worlds as well, expecting to blow the crowd away and aiming to be the youngest World Champion. At age 17, he is the only skater capable of landing both a quad lutz and quad flip in competition, as well as being able to land five quads in a freeskate. Unfortunately, Chen struggled a bit in his freeskate, aiming for six quads and only landing four. He placed sixth, above teammate Jason Brown, who only went for one quad, but unlike Chen skated a smooth program. The two finishes in top ten allowed the men to secure three spots for the 2018 Olympics, one more than in 2014 at Sochi.
As usual, the pairs skating was a disappointment for the USA and all around, with the majority of the pairs coming off a season of injury and sickness. With only two pairs, the USA came up short. To get two spots at the Olympics, at least one team needed to place in the top ten. Suprisingly, Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim squeezed into tenth. The excitement was short-lived, however, when it was realized that due to the limited number of teams allowed to participate at the Olympics there needed to be one fewer team. Since the USA was the last to achieve the spots, there is a chance they could only be left with one.
Ice dance continued to stay strong with our (and my) favorites Maia and Alex Shibutani taking the podium once more and walking away with the bronze. Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the next strongest up against the Shibutanis, were unable to medal this year, but did finish seventh. Continuing to please, the final ice dance duo, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, finished ninth, falling after a twizzle mistake in the freeskate.
Overall, the USA made some strong moves at the 2017 Worlds. We can expect to see the momentum from some of the stronger parts of the competition (sorry pairs) continue into the Olympic season. This 2018 Olympics at Pyeongchang South Korea is sure to be a good one for the figure skating world.