2017 World Championships Pairs Preview

Sui and Han missed the first half of the season as she had surgery last spring.  They are the reigning World Silver Medalists and reigning Four Continents Champions.  Their personal best came at Four Continents, where they scored 225.03.  They have a quad twist in their free skate, but what is most impressive about their programs is the quality of the elements they execute.  They routinely receive +2 and +3 GOE, giving them bonus points on their base score.  This quality performance gives them the best element score in a short program this season.  They have the 2nd best short program, 4th best free skate, and 2nd best total scores.

Stolbova and Klimov also missed the first half of the season due to injury.  They finished 4th at Worlds last season, and 4th at Europeans this year.  Their personal best was set at the Grand Prix Final last season, where they scored 229.44.  Technically there is nothing that stands out in their programs.  They don’t have quads or difficult side by side combinations.  This doesn’t give them a lot of wiggle room and they’ll have to execute everything cleanly to make up for the lack of technical firepower.  The only real difference between them and gold at Europeans was their technical score in the short program after they made errors on the side by side jumps.  They have the 7th best short program, 5th best free skate, and 6th best total scores.

Savchenko and Massot had to sit out the middle of the season, missing the Grand Prix Final, due to injury.  They took home gold in their two Grand Prix assignments and are the reigning World Bronze Medalists and European Silver Medalists.  They set a personal best at Europeans, scoring 222.35.  They had to water down some of their content at Europeans as they were making their way back from the earlier injury.  However, they are capable of landing throw triple axels in the short program and free skate and they have a throw quad salchow planned for the end of their free skate.  It’s a risky move putting such a difficult element as the last thing in the program as it is the last impression the judges have, however, if it’s landed well, it can greatly inflate the program components as the overall impression of the program will likely be higher.  Even with the watered down content, their passionate free skate at Europeans earned the the highest score of the season in program components and the second highest in technical elements.  They have the 4th best short program, best free skate, and 3rd best total scores.

Yu and Zhang have made the most of their new pairing, winning a gold and silver on the Grand Prix and silver at the Grand Prix Final.  They set their personal best at the Final, scoring 206.71.  They finished 4th at Four Continents.  They recently upgraded to a quad twist in their free skate.  They are still a new team and are learning how to perform together in a program.  This is reflected in the steady rise in their program components, staring around 29 points and moving to 33 points in the short program, and going from 65 to 68 points in the free skate.  They have the 5th best short program, 9th best free skate, and 8th best total scores.

Duhamel and Radford are the two-time reigning World Champions and Four Continents Silver Medalists.  They won two gold medals on the Grand Prix and bronze at the Grand Prix Final.  Their personal best was set at Worlds last year when they scored 231.99.  They have difficult programs planned with a throw triple axel in the short program and a throw quad salchow in their free skate.  They haven’t had as much success with these elements, so it will be interesting to see if they include them to prepare for the Olympic season, or if they go for more guaranteed elements and a clean program to try and hold on to their title.  They are fairly successful at their side by side triple lutzes in both programs.  Most teams are attempting a triple toe in their short programs worth 4.30 points, while the lutz is worth 6.00.  They have the 3rd best short program, 6th best free skate, and 5th best total scores.

Tarasova and Morozov didn’t really come in to the season as a team that was on the radar.  They finished 5th at Worlds last year, but were 10 points from the podium.  They won a bronze and silver on the Grand Prix and then were the surprise winners of the Grand Prix Final.  They claimed their first European title in January with a personal best score of 227.58.  In general, the elements of their program are not super difficult, with the exception of the quad twist in their free skate (which they did not include at Europeans), but they have quality.  Everything they do earns positive GOEs.  While their programs are a little bit paint by the numbers, they are clean and have the classic Russian look that earns them high program component marks.  The biggest difference in their success this season has been getting consistency in the free program.  At Skate America, they earned only 49.84 points in the free skate for TES, but they earned 72.82 points at Europeans.  They have the best short program, 2nd best free skate, and best total scores.

James and Cipres had the best performance of their careers to take home the bronze medal from Europeans with a personal best 220.02.  They also won a bronze medal at Trophee de France.  Their biggest improvement has been in the program components.  At Skate America, their free skate earned only 59 points in that segment, while they earned 71.57 at Europeans.  They have the highest technical score in a free skate this season.  They have dialed back some of their side by side content this season but do plan a quad salchow in their free skate.  They do a lower value Group 5 lift in their free skate, which is worth a half point less than other teams are doing.  It’s a small thing, but that half point in base value could make a difference in a tight competition.  They have the 6th best short program, 3rd best free skate, and 4th best total scores.

Seguin and Bilodeau have had a bit of an up and down season.  They won gold at Skate America and then placed 5th at Rostelecom Cup.  Their personal best is 208.30, but was set at a Challenger Cup series, and they have yet to come close to that score in any other event.  Like James and Cipres, one of the Group 5 lifts in their free skate is a lower base value, although theirs is a full point less.  They have the 7th best free skate and 7th best total scores.

Iliushechkina and Moscovitch are the reigning Four Continents Bronze Medalists.  They won two bronze medals on the Grand Prix.  They have steadily been making improvements in their scores throughout the season, but the biggest thing holding them back is the side by side jumps in their free skate which they’ve yet to hit cleanly.  They have the 9th best short program, 10th best free skate, and 9th best total scores.

Zabiiako and Enbert finished 5th at Europeans.  They won silver at Rostelecom Cup and finished 4th at the Grand Prix Final, coming in as a first alternate.  Their technical score in the free skate is a bit behind the other teams as they are doing a throw double axel.  This is worth at least a half a point less in the throws than any of the other top teams.  However, if they decide to go for the full triple axel, that element would give them an extra three points in base value.  They have the 10th best short program score.

Also trying to crack the top ten are Scimeca Knierim and Knierim (6th at Four Continents) and Denney and Fraizer  (silver at Skate America).

Peng and Jin have the 8th best short program, 8th best free skate, and 10th best total scores, but there were only two spots for Chinese teams at Worlds this year.

 

My podium predictions:

Gold: Savchenko/Massot

Silver: Sui/Han

Bronze: Tarasova/Morozov

2016 Skate America Pairs Preview

Of the four disciplines at this event, this is probably the weakest field but two teams are coming back from injuries that kept them out of most or all of last season.  As a group they have two European medals, one Four Continents medal, and three Junior Worlds medals (including one gold).  One of the Grand Prix Final finishers from last season is competing here along with two top 10 finishers from Worlds.

The best short program so far this season is 74.24 with the top 10 all scoring above 64 points.  The top free skate score is 136.90 with the top 10 all above 114.  The top total score is 208.30 with the top 10 all above 179.  They will skate the short program on Friday, October 21st and the free skate on Saturday, October 22nd.

Seguin and Bilodeau had a great start to their first senior season last year, winning two bronze medals and qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.  However, injuries kept them out of the Championship events.  They started their season with a gold medal at the Autumn Classic International where they set new personal bests across the board.  While their free skate does not have any extremely difficult technical elements, they earned all positive GOEs and program components in the 8s giving them a very solid score, despite not having some of the tricky elements other teams will be attempting.  They have the 2nd best short program, best free skate and best total scores.

James and Cipres won the silver medal at the Autumn Classic International with personal best free skate and total scores.  They have a triple toe + double toe + double toe combo in their free skate along with a throw quad salchow.  They had three elements which earned negative GOEs and their program components were lower than the Canadians by a hair.  They have the 9th best short program, 2nd best free skate and 3rd best total scores.

Tarasova and Morozov have already taken home a gold medal this season from Ondrej Nepela Trophy.  They have a quad twist in their free skate but they missed their combo jump at Nepela and their program components were lower, including some in the 7s.  They are the highest ranked team from Worlds competing at this event.  They have the 3rd best short program, 5th best free skate and 4th best total scores.

Marchei and Hotarek took home a silver medal from Lombardia Trophy.  They only have a double twist in their free skate but they are both strong singles skaters and try and make up the deficit in their jumps.  They have solo triple lutzes and triple salchow +double toes planned and she does a throw triple lutz as well.  They have the 7th best free skate and 10th best total scores.

Kayne and O’Shea have not competed yet this season, but they put out two clean programs to win their first US National title last year.  They went on to place 4th at Four Continents with personal best short and total scores but couldn’t hold on to the momentum at the World Championships.  Their short program was new for the last half of the season and they are keeping it this year, which should help them get a little more consistency as that was their problem spot in the Championship events.

Castelli and Tran won bronze at the Autumn Classic International where they set a new personal best short program score.  Their free skate has been a tough spot for them so far this season.  At the Autumn Classic their side by side triple toes were downgraded, she double the throw flip, they missed the combo on their side by side jumps and their program components were as low as 6s.  They have the 5th best short program score.

 

My podium predictions:

Gold: Seguin/Bilodeau

Silver: Tarasova/Morozov

Bronze: James/Cipres

 

Bios of the competitors:

Seguin/Bilodeau, CAN: They won bronze at Skate America and bronze at Trophee Eric Bompard last season to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they finished 4th.  They are the 2015 World Junior Silver Medalists.  Their personal best is 208.30.  She is 19 and he is 23.

James/Cipres, FRA: They placed 10th at Worlds and 4th at Europeans.  They won silver at Trophee Eric Bompard and placed 6th at NHK Trophy last season.  Their personal best is 198.90.  She is 29 and he is 25.

Marchei/Hotarek, ITA: They placed 14th at Worlds and 5th at Europeans.  They placed 6th at Rostelecom Cup last season.  Their personal best is 182.61.  She is 30 and he is 32.

Astakhova/Rogonov, RUS: They placed 7th at Europeans.  They finished 7th at Skate America and 5th at Cup of China last season.  Their personal best is 185.00.  She is 19 and he is 28.

Tarasova/Morozov, RUS: They placed 5th at Worlds and are the reigning European Bronze Medalists.  They won silver at Skate Canada and placed 7th at Trophee Eric Bompard last season.  They are the 2015 European Bronze Medalists and 2014 World Junior Silver Medalists.  Their personal best is 206.27.  She is 21 and he is 23.

Castelli/Tran, USA: They finished 6th at Four Continents.  They placed 4th at Skate Canada and 6th at Trophee Eric Bompard last season.  Their personal best is 175.08.  She is 26 and he is 26.

Denney/Frazier, USA: They are the 2013 World Junior Champions.  Their personal best is 183.84.  She is 20 and he is 23.

Kayne/O’Shea, USA: They finished 13th at Worlds and 4th at Four Continents.  They finished 6th at Skate America and 4th at Rostelecom Cup last season.  They are the 2014 Four Continents Silver Medalists.  Their personal best is 182.02.  She is 23 and he is 25.