There were certainly thrills and spills at last weekend's 2013 Four Continents Championships, with unexpected results in the men's event and unexpected technical content from the winner of the ladies' event. Before we move on from the competition, let's have a look at highlights from the rest of the competition.
Canada has a new rivalry
Prior to December, it was fairly clear that there was one Canadian pair that stood out more than the other ones do. After all, Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford won Canadians last year, finished fifth at Worlds, and qualified for the Grand Prix Final two seasons in a row, finishing fourth at the most recent one last December.
VIDEOS: Pairs' short and free
Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch were the Canadian pair to watch two years ago after winning Canadians and qualifying for the Grand Prix Final. When they battled Duhamel/Radford at the 2011 Worlds that season, it seemed like a rivalry had formed. But Moore-Towers/Moscovitch lost consistency last season, failing to even make the podium at Canadians, while Duhamel/Radford blossomed and took over.
But the off-season sure made a difference for Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, and they have only gotten stronger and stronger this season. Four Continents was the third meeting in a row between them and Duhamel/Radford, with Duhamel/Radford placing one spot ahead in all three competitions (4th and 5th at the Grand Prix Final, 1st and 2nd at Canadians, and 1st and 2nd at Four Continents).
What is crucial to note about their meeting at Four Continents is that while Moore-Towers/Moscovitch were second, they won the free skate and beat Duhamel/Radford in components in the free skate. Whether this was solely the result of Duhamel/Radford making a few messy mistakes is to be seen. But the fact is that both pairs are on the rise, just in time for the World Championships next month, which will take place in Canada.
A great ladies' event for Japan
The ladies' competition was certainly a solid one for the home team. Mao Asada, Akiko Suzuki, and Kanako Murakami, the three best from Japan, brought their A games and swept the podium. The sweep of the medals in the ladies' event had only happened one other time at Four Continents - in 2003 when Fumie Suguri, Shizuka Arakawa, and Yukari Nakano took the top three.
VIDEOS: Ladies' short and free
Suzuki probably breathed a bigger sigh of relief than the other two after only placing fourth at Japanese Nationals. But she still made it onto the team for Worlds since the bronze medalist, Satoko Miyahara, is age-ineligible. You can be sure that Suzuki will try her darnedest to keep herself on the podium at Worlds next month.
Among the Americans, Christina Gao is likely celebrating the best finish in her career, just behind the three from Japan in fourth place. She broke 60 for the first time in international competition in the short program and also hit a career-best score overall in international competition. Had she not fallen on the lutz in the free skate, she would've likely been just a point or two behind Murakami. It was a great finish to the season for Gao, who is pulling out all the stops next season - already announcing that she will sit out a year of college - in a bid for the Olympic team.
It was less rosy for Gao's two teammates. U.S. silver medalist Gracie Gold was sixth after a few up-and-down moments. She didn't fall in the short but had errors on her two big jumping passes. And her free skate had some moments of technical brilliance, but it paled in comparison to what she delivered at Nationals. She will certainly have to do better if she is to help the U.S. earn three spots for the Olympics next year. U.S. bronze medalist Agnes Zawadzki almost had a repeat of her showing at Nationals with a fall on her double axel in the short and then mistakes in the second half of her free.
Canadian champ Kaetlyn Osmond was the most inconsistent she's been this season and finished seventh behind Gold. The spark wasn't quite there, and you wonder if she was overwhelmed by the occasion.
Worlds will sure be interesting.