Takahashi, Asada headline Four Continents
Mao Asada of Japan performs during a women's practice session for the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Osaka, Japan, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
OSAKA, Japan - World silver medallist Daisuke Takahashi will be looking for a boost from the home crowd at this weekend's figure skating Four Continents.
Takahashi, from Osaka, will be the gold medal favourite in the men's event which begins on Friday. His toughest challenge will come from new Japanese champion and world bronze medallist Yuzuru Hanyu and American champion Max Aaron.
Two-time world champion Patrick Chan of Toronto is skipping the event to focus on the world championships next month in London, Ont.
Takahashi has had trouble landing his quadruple jumps this season but has been strong otherwise and won the Grand Prix Final in Sochi, Russia, in December.
In the women's competition, two-time world champ Mao Asada of Japan is looking to regain the title she lost at last year's Four Continents to Ashley Wagner of the United States.
Asada won the Grand Prix Final without her trademark triple axel and has been in strong form of late, winning the Japan championships in December.
She is not planning a triple axel here but has won four straight competitions without it.
Asada has the season's highest score with 196.87 points. She will be challenged by world bronze medallist Akiko Suzuki of Japan as well as Kaetlyn Osmond of Marystown, N.L., and world junior silver medallist Gracie Gold of the United States.
The ice dance will feature the ongoing duel between world champions Tessa Virtue of London, Ont., and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont., against world silver medallists Meryl Davis and Charlie White. The Americans beat the Canadians at the Grand Prix Final and will be looking to keep the momentum going.
Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., are favoured in the pairs along with fellow Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Toronto's Dylan Moscovitch, and U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir.