Grand Prix Final–Pairs Preview

Savechenko and Szolkowy easily have the top 2 scores of the season and if they perform as they did in their two assignments, should have a good shot at the gold here.  Pang and Tong will give them a run for their money and can outscore Savchenko/Szolkowy if they perform their best, but they don’t seem to be in top form yet this season and they had a lot of problems at Cup of China. 

Bazarova and Larionov have come into their own this season and have set two new personal bests despite a few errors in their programs.  They have all the characteristics of the great Russian teams with exquisite lines, great lifts, and flawless technique.  If they can skate two clean programs, they could potentially challenge for silver here, but should be able to land on the podium.  Moore-Towers and Moscovitch have emerged as the pairs team to beat in Canada with the absence of Dube and Davison.  They also have momentum behind them as they’ve set new personal bests at both their events.  Their scores are lower than Bazarova/Larionov but if they skate clean, they could challenge for the podium. 

Ilushechkina/Maisuradze are proving to be another young up and coming Russian pair team.  I especially love the personality in their short program which contrasts with some of the older teams more serious programs.  Their scores are some of the lowest in the bunch and their technical and performance components fall below the other competitors.  They also fell off the podium in their second event with a significantly lower score.  Look for them to regroup here but it will be difficult for them to make the podium.  Sui and Han have had a standout first season on the senior circuit, nearly defeating Pang and Tong at Cup of China and winning bronze at Skate America.  Their short program is full of personality and they have all the trademark Chinese elements including huge throws and they have a quad throw in their free program.  I think they’ll see an improvement in their scores here, but it will also be difficult for them to make the podium.

My predictions in order of finish:
Gold: Savchenko/Szolkowy
Silver: Pang/Tong
Bronze: Bazarova/Larionov
4th: Moore-Towers/Moscovitch
5th: Sui/Han
6th: Iliushechkina/Maisuradze

My USFSA Fantasy Team is:
A) Savchenko/Szolkowy
B) Moore-Towers/Moscovitch

Competitors in order of qualification:

Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy, GER: They won bronze at the Olympics with a personal best short program score and silver at Worlds and Europeans (with a personal best free skate and total score).  They have 2 additional Gold and 1 Bronze medal at the World Championships and 3 Gold and a silver at Europeans.  They won gold at Skate America and Trophee Eric Bompard.  They took home bronze from the GPF last season.  This is their 6th consecutive trip to the Final.

Qing Pang/Jang Tong, CHN: Pang and Tong won silver at the Olympics (with personal bests in the free skate and total score) and are the reigning World Champions (with a personal best short program).  They also won the World Championships in 2006.  They are three time Four Continents gold medalists and two time silver medalists.  They won gold at NHK Trophy and Cup of China.  They took home silver from the GPF last season.  This is their 7th trip to the Final.

Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov, RUS:  They finished 11th at the Olympics, 8th at Worlds and 5th at Europeans.  They won silver at NHK Trophy with personal best scores across the board and silver at Trophee Eric Bompard again with personal best scores across the board.

Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch, CAN: They placed 9th at Four Continents.  They won silver at Skate Canada this season with personal best scores across the board and silver at Skate America with personal best short program and total scores.

Lubov Iliushechkina/Nodari Maisuradze, RUS: They are the 2009 World Junior Champions.  They won Skate Canada with personal best free skate and total scores and they placed 4th at Cup of China.

Wenjing Sui/Cong Han, CHN: Sui and Han are the reigning World Junior Champions. They won the silver medal at Cup of China with personal best scores across the board and bronze at Skate America with a personal best free skate in their first season on the Grand Prix.  They won the JGPF last season and qualified again this season, but withdrew to focus on the senior Final.