I'm always looking for another reason to watch more figure skating, and this week's World Team Trophy in Tokyo fits the bill.
This event is like a post-world-championships victory lap for some of the world's best skaters. The list includes freshly crowned world champions Evgenia Medvedeva and Yuzuru Hanyu, and former world champ Patrick Chan.
CBCSports.ca is live streaming every short and free program, plus the closing gala, beginning Thursday at 2:15 a.m. ET with the ice dance short. You can catch more coverage on CBC-TV's Road to the Olympic Games shows on Saturday and Sunday.
The World Team Trophy, which is taking place for the fifth time since 2009 and is typically held every second year, has a twist: instead of just pitting individual skaters against each other, it's all about the cumulative efforts of the top six national teams. Those six teams are selected based on the world standings posted by the International Skating Union. Each team consists of two men, two women and one duo each from ice dance and pairs.
The format is a little different from what typically happens during the rest of the season. After each short and free program, skaters receive points based on their placement. The higher their placement in the segment, the more points they get.
It doesn't matter how far a skater is in the lead (or behind) in terms of the scores they receive from the judges — whomever places first in each competition segment gets 12 points, and the points decrease by one for each placing down from there. The team with the most points at the end of the event is awarded the World Team Trophy.
Canadian team strong
Canada has qualified for the World Team Trophy each time the event has been held, and has ended up on the podium three of the four times, with two silver and one bronze medal. This year's team has 2017 worlds podium finishers in three of the four disciplines, led by ladies' bronze medallist Gabrielle Daleman.
My hope for the Canadian skaters is that this will be a chance for Chan to continue to improve and for ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje to be singled out for what they bring to their event — a great combination of technique and passion. I expect Canada to finish with another medal this time.
The Canadian team's biggest challenge comes from the Russians, who have strong athletes in all of the disciplines. That includes the skating genius and two-time world champion Medvedeva, who has not been defeated since the fall of 2015. If someone is to beat her, I think it will be an experienced skater like American Ashley Wagner taking the wheel.
The Russian men are their team's weakest link, with Mikhail Kolyada and Maxim Kovtun at the mercy of the Japanese team led by 2017 world and 2014 Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu and 2017 world silver medallist Shoma Uno. Meanwhile, both Chan and American teenage champion Nathan Chen want to improve on their performances from worlds.
In ice dance, former European champions Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev can hold their own in any field. I'm looking forward to seeing the Russians going toe to toe with Weaver and Poje and Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates for the top spot.
At worlds in Helsinki, Evgenia Tarasova took 10 stitches just above the knee after accidentally getting slashed by pairs partner Vladimir Morozov in practice. Remarkably, they went on to capture the bronze medal. Tarasova has had time to recover since then, and the Russian pair will be setting the bar for the rest in Tokyo. This will be a great chance to see what Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France and Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro are made of.
If Russia's skaters perform well enough across all four disciplines, they'll take home their first World Team Trophy.
Pj's podium picks
Gold — Russia
Silver — Canada
Bronze — United States