Sui & Han Out of Worlds
Reigning World Champions and Olympic silver medalists the latest to withdraw, in this case due to injury.
While we did lose the Olympic bronze medalists between the Games and the World Championships, initially it looked like we might lose less of the pairs roster than originally expected, since winners Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot aren’t retiring just yet. Rather, the next major pair we lost off the roster were the unfortunate Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov, whom the International Olympic Committee refused to invite to PyeongChang. So the three Russian teams that went to the Olympics are all going to Worlds instead, including Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov, who finished just off the podium.
The one pair nobody worried about losing were Wenjing Sui & Cong Han. The reigning World Champions lost the Olympic gold by less than a point. It was especially impressive of them given she had casts on both her legs only a year and a half ago. Meanwhile, they remain young enough it’s expected they’ll stick around for the next quaddrennium, especially since Chinese pairs skaters tend to stay in longer than many. They were to battle Savchenko & Massot for gold, and, since the latter remain unlikely to stick around four more years, they’re likely to be the top team at their home Olympics come 2022.
That is, if they’re healthy. But it seems luck isn’t much on their side there. She had in fact gotten injured before Four Continents, and they pulled out of that as a precautionary measure. But while they got through the Olympics to silver, it’s gotten worse, and today they withdrew from Worlds. Earlier in the week, she was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her right foot, and she’s now walking around on special shoes for both feet. She won’t be able to put weight on them for 6-8 weeks, and full rehab will take three months.
If she is indeed fully recovered in June, they should have the summer to prepare for next season as normal. While this is no doubt disappointing for them, it could have been far worse, had it happened a month earlier. If one must lose a major competition like this, it’s best for it to be the post-Olympic Worlds. Their main worry going forward may be whether this injury turns out to be reoccurring. All this trouble with her feet does make one think they may have to manage things better, but if so, hopefully they’ll learn to do that.
If it isn’t, it’s almost sadder for the event itself than for them. There is at least still a potential battle for the gold, between Savchenko & Massot and Tarasova & Morozov. But it’ll be nothing like the stacked field PyeongChang boasted. And we might not even get a replacement Chinese pair. Although the pairs roster lists two alternates, neither of them have been moved into place, even though Sui & Han have already been removed. Xuehan & Lei Wang have had their own long-running injury issues, and Mingyang Zhang & Bowen Song are much lower-ranked. Although the Chinese federation might just be debating which one to send. They can decide these issues very late. Of course, the situation at Worlds being what it is, neither would be likely to make the free skate.
The World Championships on the 19th. If there’s anyone left on the roster by then.