The Four Continents Figure Skating Championships makes an interesting case study for the sport. The event was started in 1999, to provide skaters from non-European countries an equivalent competition to the European Championships which is significantly older. Historically, the Four Continents have been dominated by the United States, Canada, Japan and China. This year’s event marked the first time the competition was hosted in Europe, as China had originally been scheduled to host the event in Tianjin. The Chinese Skating Association ultimately decided against hosting this year’s competition due to ongoing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The gold medal in the women’s event was awarded to Mai Mihara of Japan. This has been a whirlwind season for Mihara. She had two fourth place finishes on the Grand Prix Circuit, after initially only being assigned to one event. She was named an alternate to the Japanese Olympic Team after placing fourth overall at the Japan Championships. She achieved personal best scores in both the short program and free skate.
The silver and bronze medals were awarded to Team Korea teammates Lee Hae-in and Kim Ye-lim respectively. Kim Ye-lim has already been named to Korea’s Olympic team alongside reigning Korean Champion You Young. This has been Lee Hae-in’s first senior competitive season. You Young ultimately finished sixth overall at this competition. Yuhana Yokoi, representing Japan, had a season’s best free skate performance that rocketed her from 12th place following the short program to sixth overall.
American ice dancers Caroline Green and Michael Parsons won the gold medal at this year’s Four Continents. After their fourth place finish in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the team is currently first alternate for Team USA at the upcoming Olympics. Teammates Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko finished this competition with a bronze medal. They finished with their best free dance of the season. Their overall competitive season has been full of ups and downs, so it was good to see them end their season on a strong note.
The silver medal went to Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi representing Japan. It remains incredibly impressive that Takahashi has successfully transitioned to a whole new discipline after being an incredibly decorated singles skater. The team is currently the alternate for Team Japan at the upcoming Olympics, and are set to represent Japan at the World Figure Skating Championships in what will be their Worlds debut as a team.
The top two awards in the pairs event went to Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov, and Emily Chan and Spencer Howe, both teams representing the United States. The teams are second and third alternates for Team USA respectively. Canada and the United States were the only countries to have entries in this event after both Australian teams that were set to make appearances ultimately withdrew.
Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud representing Canada came away with the bronze medal. After the absolutely baffling decision to leave this team off of Canada’s Olympic contingent, they delivered two strong performances at this competition, earning a personal best score for the short program and a best combined total score to date. Their outing at this year’s Four Continents Championships was further proof that this team has incredible talent, and has the potential to continue developing on the international stage. The fact that they were able to recover from the disappointment of being left off of Canada’s Olympic team this year to compete at the Four Continents is a further testament to their talent and strength as athletes.
Cha Jun-hwan, representing South Korea, came away with the gold medal, South Korea’s first in the men’s event at the Four Continents. He also had the distinction of being the first South Korean gold medalist at the Four Continents since Yuna Kim in 2009. His Ina Baur was the absolute best of the competition, and his programs are gorgeous to watch. The reigning and six-time South Korean Champion will be representing South Korea at the upcoming Olympic Games.
The silver and bronze medals were awarded to Kazuki Tomono and Kao Miura, both representing Japan. Tomono achieved personal bests in the short program, free skate, and overall combined scores. He is an alternate on the Japanese Olympic Team. This season marked Miura’s international senior debut. He finished fourth at this year’s Japan Championships, and is also an alternate for the Japanese Olympic Team.
The Four Continents can be beneficial to watch, as fans get to see skaters from countries that don’t normally otherwise qualify for major international events. It was actually a confusing decision, however, for the International Skating Union (ISU) to continue to have this event this year, with renewed concerns about the spread of COVID-19, and particularly with athletes who are set to represent their respective countries in a matter of weeks at the Olympic Games. Hopefully all of the athletes and their teams can remain safe and healthy after competing at the Four Continents.
The 2022 Winter Olympic Games start February 03, 2022.