The International Skating Union has cancelled the World Synchronized Skating Championships scheduled for April, but still plans to hold the individual worlds.
The synchro event was set for Zagreb, Crotia on April 9-10.
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Stockholm is scheduled to hold the world event for singles, pairs and ice dancers from March 22-28. American Nathan Chen would be seeking his third straight world title; the 2020 worlds were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"The ISU Council confirmed that the other pending ISU events of the 2020-21 season remain scheduled as planned, subject to pandemic developments and no quarantine requirements and or prohibitive/extensive entry restrictions," the governing body said.
The 2021 worlds are particularly important because they serve as a qualification competition for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Additionally, the Grand Prix of Figure Skating calendar for next season has been approved. That series begins in October and concludes in December.
The World Figure Skating Championships will be held on schedule - from 22 to 28 March in Stockholm. This decision was made by the executive committee of the International Skating Union. So far, only the issue of admitting spectators to the stands has not been resolved and tickets for the tournament are not being sold.
Earlier, the ISU Executive Committee has already decided to hold the World Figure Skating Championships in the Swedish capital at the end of March. Now, it seems, this resolution has found confirmation in the ranks of the Federation's functionaries, TASS reports : "The dates and place of the tournament remained unchanged."
Sweden has become one of the countries of Europe where antiquarian legislation is quite loyal and, apparently, this one also influenced the ISU's decision. Nevertheless, the issue of admitting spectators to the stands of the competition has not yet been finally resolved. Contrast marks for the World Cup are not yet sold either online or at the ticket offices in Stockholm.
Sports agent Ari Zakaryan shared his opinion on the possible cancellation of the World Figure Skating Championships due to the coronavirus.
- How do you feel about online tournaments? Are they the future?
- I don’t think so. These are one-off stories. They can be entered only now because of the need. If, for example, the World Cup is canceled, you need to try to do at least something with it. For the rest, figure skating is a spectacular sport, a whole show in which the presence of spectators is necessary.
- What about ISU? Do you think they are doing enough to popularize figure skating?
- I can't answer yet. They are all faced with a very serious task. When television and health care prohibits you from doing something, and you violate them, and God forbid something happens.
The question is very difficult. I think they try to do everything well and right. I know that now they are aimed at hosting the World Cup. But if ISU surrenders and cancels, then it will already be possible to speak out.
- A little less than two weeks until the decision on the World Cup. What are the expectations?
- At the moment it all depends on the Swedes. If the organizing committee aims to hold the championship and will do everything possible for this, we will understand this very soon.
If not ... ISU , in my opinion, should very quickly find a country that will undertake to host the tournament, albeit without spectators. Airplanes fly, you can get there anyway. I am sure there are such countries.
- I'll ask directly - will the cancellation of the World Cup for the second year in a row kill figure skating?
- Yes. If he plunges the coffin into the ground, all that remains is to sprinkle it with sand on top, ”Zakaryan said.
U.S. pairs’ figure skating silver medalists Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson withdrew from the world championships in three weeks for personal reasons unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic.
They will be replaced by U.S. bronze medalists Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc at worlds in Stockholm.
U.S. champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, in their first season together, are set to compete if they were cleared by the International Skating Union upon video review of their programs.
Calalang and Johnson missed out on a worlds debut for a second consecutive year. They broke through with a silver medal at nationals in 2020, but last season’s world championships were among the first major international sporting events canceled due to the pandemic.
Cain-Gribble and LeDuc placed ninth at their previous worlds appearance in 2019, the year they won the national title.
If Olympic qualifying remains unchanged, Cain-Gribble and LeDuc and Knierim and Frazier’s results at worlds must add up to no more than 28 (13th and 15th, for example) for the U.S. to have two pairs’ entries in Beijing next year.
In 2018, the U.S. sent is smallest pairs’ contingent to the Winter Games — one pair — since the first edition in 1924 after its pairs placed 10th and 20th at 2017 Worlds.
Nathan Chen could have given a blandly optimistic answer to a question of whether he had any concerns over the long flight (with a connection) to get him from Los Angeles to Stockholm for next week’s World Figure Skating Championships.
Chen could have given a similarly anodyne response to a question about his concerns about staying safe and healthy once he is on the ground in Sweden for nine days.
But during a Zoom teleconference last week, the two-time defending world champion chose not to do either a Pollyanna or a Pinocchio about issues related to travel and the competition environment at a worlds taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Much as he is “happy and grateful” to have the opportunity to compete at worlds, especially given the 2020 event scheduled for last March in Montreal was cancelled at the outset of this pandemic, Chen hesitated when asked if any part of him thinks it is a bad idea to have the 2021 worlds.
“Um…I don’t necessarily want to say,” he answered. “But I want the event to happen. As an athlete, you want to have these opportunities to compete. It’s just, like, safety. As long as they can ensure safety, then that’s all we can ask for.”
Parts of Europe are being hit with a third wave of the pandemic. Italy announced a new national lockdown Monday. The Czech Republic Monday added Sweden to its list of countries with the highest risk for COVID-19. Sweden’s daily case numbers have remained high, by its statistical standards, for the past month.
Chen, 21, on leave from his junior year at Yale, has not flown since the middle of last March, when he returned from the university in New Haven, Connecticut, to his home in Southern California. He drove from LA to Las Vegas for Skate America in October and the 2021 nationals in January, when he won a 12th straight individual live competition and a fifth straight U.S. title.
Next week he will face his stiffest competition in more than a year in rival Hanyu Yuzuru, the two-time reigning Olympic champion from Japan whom he last skated against at the Grand Prix Final in December 2019 (which Chen won).
Chen’s trip abroad is likely to take some 14 hours from takeoff to touchdown in Sweden. The overseas flight will be about 11 hours.
“I’m not going to lie and say I’m not [concerned about the trip],” Chen said. “I know in theory airplanes are safe due to the HEPA filter [air filtration system], but connections are still an issue…and on international flights, people will be taking off their masks to eat. Bathrooms are always sketchy.
“I have my anxieties about the travel. I’m sure it should be OK. I’ll do my very best to prevent my mask from slipping. Obviously, I will be double masking throughout the flight and just praying I don’t get sick.”
Since the International Skating Union council decided Jan. 28 to go ahead with worlds, it has worked with the organizing committee to create a tight bubble environment with no event spectators like the one U.S. Figure Skating was able to establish at its events in Las Vegas.