At the World Figure Skating Championships which begin tomorrow in Montpellier, France, there will be no Russians or Belarusians. their countries have been banned by the International Skating Union. This means that current gold medalists in three disciplines – Russia’s Anna Shcherbakova, ice dancers Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, and pairs team Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov – will not be able to defend their titles. (Ukraine, meanwhile, will be represented in Montpellier by Ivan Shmuratko, couples team Sofiia Holichenko and Artem Darenskyii, and ice dancers Oleksandra Nazarova and Maksym Nikitin.)
With the top five pairs finalists at last month’s Olympics in Montpellier (gold medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong won’t be there, nor will the rest of the Chinese figure skating team), the United States has strong chance of winning their first pairs medal since 2002, when Kyoko Ina and John Zimmermann won bronze. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, the 2021 U.S. champions, had to pull out of this year’s nationals when Frazier tested positive for COVID, but they earned a spot on the Olympic and world teams. They proved themselves worthy in Beijing, where they finished sixth, the highest Olympic ranking in 20 years for an American pair team. This year’s American champions, Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, finished just two places behind them in eighth place.