Figure skating season is here — but for how long?


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Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

Figure skating season is here. But how long will it last?

This ought to be an exciting time of year for figure skating fans. The Grand Prix series kicks off Friday night, which normally means the beginning of a skating season that lasts about five months and culminates with the world championships in March.

But the pandemic has put the Grand Prix in jeopardy and created a lot of uncertainty throughout the sport. Here’s a look at where things stand for the three main pillars of the figure skating season:

Grand Prix series

In a normal year, six events are held in consecutive weeks in different parts of the world and skaters each get assigned to two of them. When those are done, the top six in each discipline (women’s, men’s, pairs, dance) qualify for the Grand Prix Final in December.

This year, two of the regular stops have already been cancelled. Skate Canada International, which was to be held in Ottawa on Halloween weekend, was called off last week, and France nixed its mid-November event on Monday. So that leaves Skate America (this Friday and Saturday in Las Vegas), the Cup of China (Nov. 6-8), Russia’s Rostelecom Cup (Nov. 20-22) and Japan’s NHK Trophy (Nov. 27-29). The Grand Prix Final in Beijing was postponed indefinitely, and it’s questionable whether it will take place at all. Given the current rise in coronavirus infections in various parts of the world, the same could be said for all the events, though it looks like Skate America will go ahead as planned.

The events themselves have also been scaled back. Skaters are limited to only one this year, and it has to be in their home country or the one where they live/train. Athletes located in a country that doesn’t host a Grand Prix can compete in one in a neighbouring country, but only if travel is allowed. For Skate America, no fans will be in the building.

Nearly every Canadian skater was signed up for Skate Canada, so its cancellation means that next to no Canadians will compete on the Grand Prix circuit this year. The only exception is Keegan Messing, a dual citizen who lives and trains in Alaska and will appear at Skate America. Read more about Messing and how he’s coping with an especially difficult stretch that started with the death of his brother in a motorcycle crash in 2019 here.

Also missing from the series this year is the biggest star in the sport. Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, who won men’s gold at the previous two Winter Olympics and also owns a pair of world titles and four Grand Prix Final crowns, decided to opt out over the summer.

CBC Sports is live streaming the short and free programs in all four competitions at Skate America in their entirety, and you can watch them here starting Friday at 7 p.m. ET.

National championships

Countries typically hold these early in the new year, after the Grand Prix season ends. The results decide who gets sent to the world championships.

The 2021 Canadian championships are scheduled for Jan. 11-17 in Vancouver, but no one knows right now whether they’ll actually happen.

World championships

Same deal. We’ll see if they can go ahead March 24-28 in Stockholm as scheduled. Last year’s worlds were called off just a week before they were to begin in Montreal. Another cancellation would be problematic because the 2021 world championships determine the number of entries each country gets for the ’22 Olympics.

One final note on the figure skating season: The Four Continents Championships, a fairly high-profile event that was scheduled for February in Australia, was cancelled last week.

Canadian figure skater Keegan Messing dedicated his performance in the Skate America gala in Las Vegas to his late younger brother Paxon, who was killed in September when an SUV collided with his motorcycle. 4:55

Quickly…

Mookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw lifted the Dodgers in the World Series opener. Kershaw kept his critics at bay (at least for a few days) by pitching six strong innings to anchor L.A. to an easy 8-3 win over Tampa Bay last night. The three-time Cy Young winner gave up only one run on just two hits while striking out eight and walking one to improve his career post-season record to 12-12. But Mookie Betts stole the show starting in the fifth inning, when he had two hits, swiped two bases and scored twice. He then tacked on a solo homer in the sixth. Game 2 is tonight just after 8 p.m. ET. Tampa Bay is sending 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell to the mound against Tony Gonsolin, who’s likely to give way early to a string of relievers. Read more about the Dodgers’ Game 1 win here. And in case you missed yesterday’s newsletter, get caught up on the players and storylines to watch in the World Series here.

Canada’s Custio Clayton has a big fight coming up. On Saturday night in Connecticut, the undefeated welterweight takes on Kazakhstan’s Sergey Lipinets for the IBF interim championship. If Clayton wins, it could earn him the opportunity to face a big-name opponent (Manny Pacquiao is a possibility) for a large payday. It would also make him the first Black Nova Scotian to hold a boxing world title since 1900. The 33-year-old Clayton is well aware of the rich tradition of Black fighters from his province, which you can read more about in this piece by Morgan Campbell.

Stan Van Gundy is back on the sidelines. His last two NBA coaching stops ended in humbling fashion. After being run out of Orlando by then Magic star Dwight Howard, Van Gundy turned down the vacant Golden State job that later went to Steve Kerr because Detroit offered Van Gundy the dual role of president of basketball ops. Four years later, Kerr and the Warriors had three championships and Van Gundy was out of job after failing to win a single playoff game with the Pistons. Like his brother, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, SVG has the personality and the mic skills to give up the coaching grind for a long and lucrative career in broadcasting, which he dabbles with between jobs. But some guys just can’t stay away, and today Van Gundy reportedly agreed to a four-deal deal to coach the New Orleans Pelicans. His No. 1 priority there will be figuring out how to get the most out of ultra-talented but oft-hurt star Zion Williamson, who’s coming off an injury plagued rookie year. Read more about Van Gundy’s new gig here.

And finally…

Do you know “The Forsberg?” It’s the hockey breakaway move where the shooter drifts toward one side of the net and reaches back across the crease with one hand on their stick to poke the puck in. The first time most of us saw it was at the 1994 Olympics, where a (then) little-known young Swede by the name of Peter Forsberg had the guts to try it in an extra, sudden-death round of the shootout that decided the gold-medal game vs. Canada. He scored, Sweden won the gold and, soon, NHL players started copying the move. But what was it like to give up one of the most famous goals in Olympic hockey history? Find out from a wonderfully entertaining and insightful Corey Hirsch in the first installment of Rob Pizzo’s new “I was in net for…” video series, which you can watch here.

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