2018 Olympic Winter Games Pairs Preview

Nine of the top ten teams from this season are competing at this event.  The only team not in PyeongChang is Stolbova and Klimov, as she was named as an athlete who was not invited to the Games in the wake of the doping scandal from Sochi.  They are the reigning Olympic Silver Medalists, and will not be able to try and win a second consecutive medal.

Savchenko and Massot have posted the highest score of the season with 236.68 points overall, which they did in their win at the Grand Prix Final.  While they hold the top score, they only have two scores in the top ten of all scores set this season.  Sui and Han have three of the top four scores set this season, and every single one of their scores is over 230 points.  Tarasova and Morozov are the reigning European Champions, but they won that title without Savchenko and Massot there to compete against and with only the 9th best score set this season.

To place in the top 10, teams will be looking to score above 70 points in the short program, 132 points in the free skate, and 203 points overall.  The top short program score for the season is 80.92 (just set by Tarasova and Morozov in the team event) and for the free skate, it is 157.25 (set by Savchenko and Massot at the Grand Prix Final).

Savchenko and Massot are gunning for the gold medal at this event.  She has competed twice previously at the Olympics, and was a favorite to win gold four years ago in Sochi, until Volosozhar and Trankov made a name for themselves.  After her partner Robin Szolkowy retired, she teamed up with Massot.  After deciding which country to represent (he is French) and then waiting to be released to compete for a new country, they have become one of the top teams, earning two World and two European medals.  Massot finally passed the German citizenship test in November, clearing the way for them to compete here, but they sat out the European Championships to let his back fully heal.  At 34 years old, this is most likely her last chance for Olympic gold.

They have a Level 4 triple twist, throw triple axel, and a side by side triple salchow planned for their short program.  This gives them a base value of 18.70 points for these elements.  However, they may decide to instead go for a throw triple lutz with a lower base value but a higher success rate, but that would bring their base value down to 16.50.  The throw triple axel gives them the highest base value for the short program of any team, while the triple lutz puts them more in line with everyone else.  Their triple twist is a huge point getter, receiving mostly +3 GOEs.  It was worth 8.50 points at Skate Canada, 8.60 points at Skate America, and 8.70 points in the team event.

They only attempted their throw triple axel at Skate Canada.  They landed it but it was messy and after GOEs, it was worth 5.84 points.  They went for a throw double axel in the free skate and earned 5.50 points with positive GOEs.  At both Skate America and the Grand Prix Final, they had a throw triple lutz in their short program, earning 6.80 and 6.20 points for the jump at Skate America and 6.90 and 7.20 points at the Grand Prix Final.  Every single one of their lutz attempts was worth much more than their triple axel.  They went for a throw triple flip in the team event and she fell on it, netting then 2.40 points after the deduction.

Their biggest issue is their side by side jumps, especially in their free skate.  At Skate Canada, they executed a triple salchow and a single salchow, earning them just 2 points for the two jumps combined.  They fared better at Skate America with a triple salchow + single toe + single toe and a triple toe, earning 9.30 points.  Their best side by side jumps came at the Grand Prix Final where they hit a triple salchow + double toe + double toe combination and a triple toe, earning 13.90 points.  They have been improving steadily throughout the season, but don’t have the best track record in competition.

Program components are a big area that they shine in.  At Skate America, they received three 10.00 marks for their free skate, but all came from the same judge.  At the Grand Prix Final, their free skate earned five 10.00 marks that came from four different judges.  They have the 3rd best short program, best free skate, and best total scores.

Sui and Han are competing in their first Olympic Games and were early favorites for the gold medal after winning Four Continents and Worlds last season.  However, they finished behind Savchenko and Massot in the Final marking the first time they had lost an event since Worlds in 2016.

Their biggest advantage is skating clean programs.  So far this season they have earned all positive GOEs in the short programs at both Cup of China and NHK, netting 10 points at each of those events.  They also earned all positive GOES at NHK Trophy in the free skate, earning 16 points.

Two of their best elements are the throw triple flip and the twist.  The triple flip earned them 7.50-7.60 points in the short program at their events (better than Savchenko and Massot have earned on the element).  Their triple twist has been earning slightly less than the Germans, ranging from 8.20 to 8.30.  However, they have a quad twist in their free skate, which has earned them between 9.20 and 9.57 points, giving them an advantage.

Their two side by side jumping passes in the free skate (triple toe + double toe + double toe and triple salchow) have been relatively clean this season, earning 11.10, 12.70, and 11.90 points across their events.

They also have strong program components, earning five 10.00 marks from three judges in the short program and one 10.00 mark in the free skate at Cup of China; three 10.00 marks from two judges in the short program and five 10.00 marks from two judges in the free skate at NHK Trophy; and two 10.00 marks from two judges in the free skate at the Grand Prix Final.  They have the 2nd best short program, 2nd best free skate, and 2nd best total scores.

Tarasova and Morozov are looking to continue the great Russian tradition of pair skating at the Olympic Games.  They were still juniors when the Games were held in Sochi in 2014, and they have been steadily rising the senior ranks.  They are two time and reigning European Champions, but finished a disappointing 5th at the Grand Prix Final.

They have been hitting clean short programs almost all season, earning all positive GOEs at the Internationaux de France, Grand Prix Final and the Olympic Team Event, earning between 9 and 11 points from GOEs.

Their strongest element in their short program is the triple twist.  The maximum for the element is 8.70 points, which they earned at four of their five events this season.  The only time they earned less was at the Grand Prix Final, where they scored 8.50 points.  They have a quad twist in their free skate, but it hasn’t really given them a significant advantage.  Their highest score was 9.43 points at the Internationaux de France, however they also earned 8.29 points at Europeans, less than they earn with a triple.

Their short program throw is a triple loop, which is worth less than the flip/lutz that the Germans and Chinese are attempting.  They have been pretty much maxing out the jump, earning 6.90-7.10 points (except for Europeans where a fall earned them only 1.90 points), which is around the same range as the Germans but about a half a point less than the Chinese when GOEs are taken into account.

Their free skate side by side jumps have been a big issue for them this season.  They are attempting a triple salchow and a triple toe + double toe + double toe combo.  They missed the combo at Internationaux de France and missed the combo plus had the other jump downgraded at the Grand Prix Final.  The Final was their worst event, and they earned 3.16 points for their side by side jumps, compared to 12.90 at Europeans.

Program components are an area where they are losing ground to their other top teams.  There isn’t a lot of expression or performance in their programs and everything is very technically appealing but also very cold and calculating.  They have not earned a single 10.00 mark this season, and this second mark could cost them a chance at gold if the other teams are skating cleanly.  They have the best short program, 3rd best free skate, and 3rd best total scores.

Duhamel and Radford placed 7th in Sochi.  They went on to win back to back World titles in 2015 and 2016, but dropped to 7th last season.

While the Germans and Russians have been trying to max out the points on their triple twists, Duhamel and Radford are routinely earning Level 2 and 3, leaving valuable points on the table, even scoring nearly two points less on this single element.  Their best twist was in the short program at Skate Canada, where they earned 7.50 points.  Their worst was the short program at Skate America where they earned 6.80 points.

They do have the most difficult side by side jump in their short program, a triple lutz.  They doubled it at Skate Canada, earning only 1.46 points, but hit it at every other event, earning between 5.40 and 5.80 points, but still less than the base value of 6.00.  The throw triple lutz in their short program has also been fairly consistent, earning between 6.50 and 6.80, with the Grand Prix Final being the only outlier at 4.10.  However, they are still earning less than the Russians who are attempting a jump with lesser base value.

They have a big risk, big reward element in their free skate with a throw quad salchow.  They landed it at Skate Canada and earned 9.34 points, but the points dropped all season to 6.34 at Skate America and 4.20 after a fall at the Grand Prix Final.  She put her hands down on their attempt in the Team Event, and scored 7.06 points.

Their side by side jumps in their free skate are also ambitious with a triple lutz and triple salchow + double toe + double toe combination.  They skated cleanly at Skate Canada and earned 13.60 points for the jumps, but only earned 8.60 at Skate America and 10.40 at the Grand Prix Final.  They had their best side by side jumps of the season in the Team Event, where they scored 14.10 points.  Their only clean program of the season was the free skate at Skate Canada where they earned all positive GOEs and netted 10 points.  They have the 4th best short program, 4th best free skate, and 5th best total scores.

Yu and Zhang are competing in their first Olympics together as a team.  Zhang competed with his previous partner in three Olympics, winning the silver medal in 2006.

They do not have any quads in their programs or any element that gives them a technical advantage.  They also have some of the lowest program components of any of the top teams.  They’ll be relying on clean skates to give themselves a chance to make the podium.

Their triple twist is fairly strong and they have nearly maxed out their points a few times.  They have never scored less than 8.00 for the element and they scored 8.60 points twice this season.  They have a throw triple loop in their short program and have scored between 6.70 and 6.90 all season.

The side by side jumps have been a problem in their free skate, missing the combination twice.  Their best attempts were at Cup of China, where they earned 11.40 points.  Their worst was at Cup of China, where they earned just 6.10 points.

Their best event was at Skate America where both of their programs earned all positive GOEs, netting 8 points for the short program and 15 for the free skate.  They have the 7th best short program, 6th best free skate, and 6th best total scores.

James and Cipres placed 10th in Sochi and have been trying to break into the top level of pairs skaters ever since.  They have had some breakout moments, but haven’t been able to put everything together when it counts.

Their triple twist has mostly been earning Level 2s and they are losing up to 2.5 points compared to some of the other top teams here.  They have earned as low as 5.80 points for the twist, but put up their best score of the season (7.50) in the Team event.

Their short program includes a throw triple lutz/flip which has scored from a 5.70 to a 6.80.  Their free skate has a quad salchow, which they have landed all season.  They have earned from a 6.34 to a high or 8.20 on the element.

They’ve hit the side by side jumps in their free skate (triple toe + double toe + double toe and triple salchow) two out of three times this season, earning 13.5 points at the Internationaux de France and 13.1 points at Skate Canada, but a bad combination left them with only 6.84 points at Europeans.

They’ve skated three clean short programs this season with all positive GOEs, earning between 7 and 8 points.  They have the 5th best short program, 7th best free skate, and 7th best total scores.

Other teams looking for a spot in the top 10 include Zabiiako and Enbert (8th best short program, 9th best free skate, and 8th best total scores), Marchei and Hotarek (9th best short program, 8th best free skate, and 9th best total scores), and Astakhova and Rogonov (10th best free skate and 10th best total scores).

 

Tarasova and Morozov have the highest short program technical score of the season, 43.78, set during the team event.  Their average short program technical score is 40.75.  Sui and Han have the highest average technical score for the short program at 41.32 points.  Both teams benefit from maxing out elements and clean skates with high GOEs although neither team has any particularly difficult elements compared to other teams.

Sui and Han have the highest short program program components score of the season with 37.69 points.  In fact, they have the top three program components scores for this segment, with their lowest score higher than the next best team’s best score.  Tarasova and Morozov and Savchenko and Massot have traded back and forth near identical program components and sit in a virtual tie for second, with the Germans averaging 36.64 points and the Russians averaging 36.61 points.

For the short program it is going to come down to if the Russians can skate clean.  They have a bit of a deficit on the program component side but they have the ability to put out the cleanest technical skate of any team here.  Their throw triple loop has less of a base value than the other teams, so even though they’ve been maxing out the jump, the other teams have more of an upside to potentially earn more points. The Germans could also try and throw the triple axel which could be a huge point getter if they land it, but since they haven’t been competing it that seems like a long shot.  Sui and Han also haven’t been hitting the highest GOE marks on the twist, so have a bit of room to improve there.

The free skate is going to be all about the side by side jumps.  Each team has had struggles with them this season, and not completing them could be the difference between winning and not even making the podium.  So far this season, the quads haven’t been giving any teams a huge advantage, but if Sui and Han can up their GOEs or the levels on the twist or if James/Cipres or Duhamel/Radford can hit the quad salchow with positive GOEs it could really throw an interesting wrench into the overall medal picture.

Savchenko and Massot have the highest free skate technical score of 80.23 points, which they set at the Grand Prix Final.  Sui and Han have the highest average technical score for the free skate at 77.53, much higher than Savchenko and Massot (73.59) and Duhamel and Radford (73.00).

On the program components side, Savchenko and Massot again have the advantage with the highest score of 77.02.  Sui and Han have the highest average score of 76.17, more than a point better than the Germans average.

 

My podium predictions:

Gold: Sui/Han

Silver: Savchenko/Massot

Bronze: Tarasova/Morozov

 

Bios of the competitors:

Alexandrovskaya/Windsor, AUS: They finished 16th at Worlds last season and are the reigning World Junior Champions.  They placed 6th at Four Continents.  They finished 4th at JGP Latvia and won gold at JGP Poland to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final where they won gold.  Their personal best is 190.31.  She is 18 and he is 21.

Ziegler/Kiefer, AUT: They finished 18th at Worlds last season and 7th at Europeans.  They placed 6th at Rostelecom Cup and 6th at NHK Trophy.  Their personal best is 181.75.  She is 23 and he is 27.

Duhamel/Radford, CAN: They placed 7th at Worlds last season.  They won gold at Skate Canada and bronze at Skate America to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won bronze..  They are the 2015 and 2016 World Champions; 2013 and 2014 World Bronze Medalists; 2013 and 2015 Four Continents Champions; and 2011 and 2017 Four Continents Silver Medalists.  Their personal best is 231.99.  She is 32 and he is 33.

Moore-Towers/Marinaro, CAN: They placed 7th at Worlds last season.  They won bronze at Cup of China and placed 6th at Skate America.  Their personal best is 199.65.  She is 25 and he is 26.

Seguin/Bilodeau, CAN: They placed 11th at Worlds last season.  They finished 5th at Rostelecom Cup and 4th at NHK Trophy.  They are the 2015 World Junior Silver Medalists.  Their personal best is 208.30.  She is 21 and he is 24.

Peng/Jin, CHN: They finished 5th at Skate Canada and 5th at Internationaux de France.  Their personal best is 204.49.  She is 20 and he is 23.

Sui/Han, CHN: They are the reigning World Champions.  They won gold at  Cup of China and gold at NHK Trophy to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won silver.  They are the 2015 and 2016 World Silver Medalists; 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2017 Four Continents Champions; and 2010, 2011, and 2012 World Junior Champions.  Their personal best is 234.53.  She is 22 and he is 25.

Yu/Zhang, CHN: They finished 4th at Worlds last season.  They won silver at Cup of China and silver at Skate America to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they placed 6th.  Their personal best is 219.20.  She is 22 and he is 33.

Duskova/Bidar, CZE: They placed 14th at Worlds last season.  They are the 2016 World Junior Champions.    Their personal best is 189.09.  She is 18 and he is 18.

James/Cipres, FRA: They finished 8th at Worlds last season and finished 4th at Europeans.  They won bronze at Skate Canada and silver at Internationaux de France.  They are the 2017 European Bronze Medalists.  Their personal best is 222.59.  She is 30 and he is 26.

Hocke/Blommaert, GER: They placed 8th at Europeans.  Their personal best is 180.37.  She is 17 and he is 25.

Savchenko/Massot, GER: They are the reigning World Silver Medalists.  They won silver at Skate Canada and gold at Skate America to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won gold.  They are the 2016 World Bronze Medalists and 2016 and 2017 European Silver Medalists.  Their personal best is 236.68.  She is 34 and he is 29.

Conners/Krasnopolski, ISR: They finished 9th at Europeans.  Their personal best is 171.61.  She is 17 and he is 29.

Della Monica/Guarise, ITA: They placed 13th at Worlds last season and 6th at Europeans.  They finished 4th at Cup of China and 3rd at Internationaux de France.  Their personal best is 197.59.  She is 28 and he is 29.

Marchei/Hotarek, ITA: They finished 9th at Worlds last season and 5th at Europeans.  They placed 4th at Rostelecom Cup and 5th at Cup of China.  Their personal best is 204.20.  She is 31 and he is 34.

Suzaki/Kihara, JPN: They placed 8th at Four Continents.  They finished 8th at NHK Trophy.  Their personal best is 157.27.  She is 18 and he is 25.

Kim/Kam, KOR: Their personal best is 149.72.  She is 18 and he is 22.

Astakhova/Rogonov, RUS: They won bronze at Rostelecom Cup and bronze at NHK Trophy.  Their personal best is 203.64.  She is 20 and he is 29.

Tarasova/Morozov, RUS: They are the reigning World Bronze Medalists and reigning European Champions.  They won gold at Rostelecom Cup and gold at Internationaux de France to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they finished 5th.  They are the 2017 European Champions, 2015 and 2016 European Bronze Medalists, and 2014 World Junior Silver Medalists.  Their personal best is 227.58.  She is 23 and he is 25.

Zabiiako/Enbert, RUS: They finished 12th at Worlds last season and are reigning European Bronze Medalists.  They placed 4th at Skate Canada and 4th at Skate America.  Their personal best is 210.18.  She is 23 and he is 28.

Ryom/Kim, PRK: They placed 15th at Worlds last season.  They are the reigning Four Continents Bronze Medalists.  Their personal best is 184.98.  She is 19 and he is 25.

Scimeca Knierim/Knierim, USA: They placed 10th at Worlds last season.  They finished 5th at NHK Trophy and 5th at Skate America.  They are the 2016 Four Continents Silver Medalists and 2014 Four Continents Bronze Medalists.  Their personal best is 207.96.  She is 26 and he is 30.

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