The Top Figure Skaters at the 2010 Winter Olympics

Figure skating is always one of the most popular events at the Winter Olympics. Picking out the figure skating medal favorites from the field of hopefuls can be a challenge. But with new judging requirements this year, skaters will really have to step up, fight off the nerves and be able to back up all the hype with a solid performance. These are some of the skaters that have the best chance of winning.

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Men

Patrick Chan is Canada's hometown favorite. This Ontario native has been gaining in confidence and ability over the last year or two. He recently won the Four Continents Championship and silvered at the World Championships. He plans to successful land a quad toe loop in the Olympics. He attempted one recently in competition but he fell. Many people will be watching to see if he can pull it off.

Evan Lysacek is the USA's best hope. He is the reigning World Champion and a consistently strong skater. But Evan is missing some of the technical power that many of his competitors have. So the question will be whether consistency will win out over a well executed, flashy routine. Team USA's other two men, Johnny Weir and Jeremy Abbot, have the potential to medal, but they will have to perform.

France and Russia also have medal hopefuls. France’s Brian Joubert is the 2007 World Figure Skating Champion. And from Russia, Yevgeny Plushenko is making a comeback — Yevgeny was the 2006 gold medalist in Torino.

Women

The women’s field is very deep at this year's Winter Olympics. This is one of the few years when any of a number of skaters from any number of countries could take home a medal. Canada’s hometown favorite, Joannie Rochette, is the reigning World silver medalist.

Kim Yu-Na, from South Korea, is another favorite. She is the 2009 World Figure Skating Champion and Four Continents champion. Kim Yu-Na has been a strong contender for the last three years and she doesn’t seem to be wavering.

The Italian skater to beat is Carolina Kostner. She is a favorite of the audiences and judges alike. Kostner is ranked second in the world right now and she has both technical difficulty and artistry. As long as she can keep from getting injured and doesn’t succumb to nerves, she’s sure to get a medal.

The Japanese women are as strong this year as they were at the 2006 Winter Olympics. Miki Ando is leading the pack. She is the 2007 World Figure Skating Champion and she consistently performs well. She dances beautifully and has amazing technical ability. Another Japanese favorite is Mao Asada. At 19, she is already a sensation. She is the 2008 World champion and Four Continents champion.

The American women are always challengers, but it is hard to say whether everything will fall into place for them at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

  • Sasha Cohen, who won the silver medal at the 2006 Olympics, is returning from three years of retirement in hopes of making another attempt at Olympic gold. She has the ability to medal, but it’s hard to say whether she will be back in peak performance in time.

  • Emily Hughes (the younger sister of Sarah Hughes) is a solid skater who has performed well in international competition, but she has been plagued with injuries.

  • Kimmie Meissner is ranked fifth in the world right now, but she has been suffering from a knee injury. It is hard to say whether she will be healed enough to do well.

  • Team USA also has three up-and-coming young stars that have recently turned old enough to compete internationally. These youngsters, Ashley Wagner, Mirai Nagasu, and Caroline Zhang, have great potential, but they are untested against the experience and sophistication of the older skaters.

Pairs

The current favorites for the gold medal are Germans, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. They are the 2009 world pair skating champions.

Both of the Chinese pairs teams are in medal contention this year. The 2006 Olympic bronze medalists and three time world pair skating champions, Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, are expected to return. They bring both the expected Chinese athletic ability and a beautiful artistry to their routines. Their teammates, Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang, are also expected to return this year. They won the silver during the 2006 Olympics. And their technical prowess keeps their degree of difficulty score near the top.

The American pairs field has had a lot of shake up and controversy this year. The expected favorites at the US Championships were Keanua McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, but they had a terrible short program and never regained their footing. America’s other popular pairs team, Inoue and Baldwin, placed third under a veil of controversial judging scores during the free program. The result of this shake up means that the teams of Denney and Barrett and Evora and Ladwig are heading to Vancouver.

The youngsters, Caydee Denney (16) and Jeremy Barrett (25), performed flawlessly in what was by all accounts the match of their lives. Evora and Ladwig have only been skating together for a short time, but they’ve been dating for 5 years. The only question is whether such unseasoned teams will be able to fight off the nerves that often come with the Olympic competitiveness.

Ice Dancing

America’s best chance for an Ice Dancing medal is Tanith Belgin and Benjamin Agosto. They have won more medals than any other American team. They won the silver at Torino and another silver medal at last year’s World Championships. However, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the 2009 U.S. Ice Dance Champions, are still in the running — but they will have to step up the game.

The Canadian Ice Dance Champions, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, are definitely hometown favorites and legitimate medal contenders. However, the reigning World Ice Dance Champions are Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin from Russia. The general consensus is that they are the team to beat.

Ice Dancing fans are anxiously awaiting the return of the French team of Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder. The 2008 World Champions shocked everyone when they announced that they would not be competing in the 2009 World Championships due to a shoulder injury that Isabelle had not recovered from. It was later announced that Isabelle was pregnant and that would interfere with competition. The team got back to training in October and they will be making their return at the Olympics.

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