Four Continents Loses Chinese Pairs
Sui & Han and Peng & Jin both out of Four Continents due to injuries.
For many years, the Four Continents Championships struggled to be taken seriously as an ISU Championship, because the fields were often weak. The competition is open to all countries outside Europe, but only two of the continents involved have a significant skating presence. It’s the main reason that while other ISU Championships require countries to earn multiple berths with their previous results, everyone’s allowed to send three entries in all four discipline to Four Continents. And they often didn’t send their best skaters.
In more recent years, they started doing so more. But the Olympic season, where the competition is bare weeks before the Games, remains an exception. Neither the U.S. or Canada are sending any of their Olympic-bound skaters to the 2018 Four Continents in Taipei. The Asian countries are sending some of them, but their skating strength is also concentrated in two countries: China and Japan. And the latter is only strong in singles.
The pairs competition especially was dependent on the strength of the Chinese team. China and Canada are the only two non-European countries that regularly turn out top tier pairs teams, although Australia currently has a good one too. This year, Canada had four top teams, but the only one going to Four Continents is the one that’s been skating badly all year. But at least they’re sending three. China has three top teams, but only entered two of them.
And now we’ve lost them both. The news broke this weekend that both Wenjing Sui & Cong Han and Cheng Peng & Yang Jin are out. (Although the news article mistakenly refers to Jin as skating with old partner Xiaoyu Yu. She & Hao Zhang were the top pair not entered.) The Chinese federation describes both Sui and Jin as suffering from a minor injuries. In Sui’s case especially, it sounds like something she’d normally skate through, except they don’t want to take any chances so close to the Olympics.
That means both teams should be fine for the Games, provided the federation is telling the truth. Sui & Han will certainly try to be, since they’re contenders for the gold medal.
No one’s even sure why China didn’t enter any more pairs, even their lower ranked ones. But since they didn’t, the field’s now down to eleven, because the two Chinese pairs aren’t even the only ones gone without replacement. Japanese team Narumi Takahashi & Ryo Shibata also left it earlier this week, with no news as too why. They were a weak enough team a stronger field would never even have missed them.
Basically there’s the young Australian team, the struggling top Canadian team, two more Canadian B teams, three inconsistent American teams, a North Korean team good enough to qualify for the Olympics but not much else, and three weaker teams from Japan and South Korea. At least it’ll be interesting to see who manages to medal.
The Four Continents Championships takes place in Taipei January 22,28, 2018.