By Nick Butler

Japanese star Yuzuru Hanyu will be looking to retain his world title on Chinese ice ©Getty ImagesChina will play host to its first World Figure Skating Championships when action begins in Shanghai tomorrow, with 164 skaters and couples from 37 nations set to compete.

In a Championships that coincides with the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Evaluation Commission inspection visit to Beijing to analyse their bid for the 2022 Olympics and Paralympics, China will be keen to underline its continued growth as a winter sporting hub.

In a season in which he has already won the International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix, defending champion Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu will be the favourite to retain the men's event on Asian ice, with continental competition to be provided by Kazakhstan's Denis Ten.

Ten - an ambassador for Beijing 2022 race rival, Almaty - comes fresh from a Four Continents victory last month in Seoul, and will be keen to continue the form that saw his win Olympic bronze at Sochi 2014. 

Three-time European Champion Javier Fernandez of Spain is another leading contenders, along with the likes of Joshua Ferris, Han Yan and Maxim Kovtun, of United States, China and Russia respectively. 

European champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva leads a formidable Russian team in the ladies event, with opposition likely to be led by team mates Elena Radionova and Anna Pogonlaya as well as US hopes Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold and Japanese star Satoko Miyahara.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva will lead a three-strong Russian charge in the ladies singles event ©Getty ImagesElizaveta Tuktamysheva will lead a three-strong Russian charge in the ladies singles event ©Getty Images

Fresh from a season topped by victories at the ISU Grand Prix Final and Four Continents competitions, Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford will be looking for a first world title in the pairs event.

Russia's European champions Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov will be among the leading opponents, as will a strong home squad led by returning two-time world champions Qing Pang and Jian Tong.

Canada will be challenging for the medals again in the ice dance event, with 2014 world silver medallists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje taking on the likes of French European winners Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, while Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the US should also be in contention. 

Action is due to begin at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center tomorrow with the ice dancing and pairs short programmes, before the pair competition produces the first medals of the five-day seasonal showpiece event on Thursday (March 26).

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