World Championships: Pairs Preview

Savchenko and Szolkowy have led the pack all season and won every event they entered.  They seem to be back in top form.  While I’m not crazy about their short program and think that it isn’t very well put together, I think their free skate is to die for.  It seems to suit their personalities and technical abilities perfectly and the high throw triple right at the end of the program is definitely a highlight.  If they nail all their elements this should be an easy victory.  They have the best short program, free skate and total score of the season.

Kavaguti and Smirnov were injured at the beginning of the season and only competed in one Grand Prix event.  They lost their title at Russian nationals and then went on to lose their European title.  I have never been crazy about them as a team and I don’t think they have a vibe that really feels like they belong together.  They also tend to go over the top on their programs which takes away from some of their biggest attributes like clean lines.  They have the 3rd best short program and 2nd best free skate and total scores of the season.

Pang and Tong are coming in as the defending World Champions.  They had a magical season last year which also included winning the free skate and the silver medal at the Olympics.  While their programs are nice and have the trademark Chinese elements such as the huge throws, they seem to be missing the spark on the ice that won them such acclaim last season.  They’ve been discussing retirement and it seems that the fire may not be there anymore.  If they can find a way to reclaim that passion they could climb above the 200 mark and into the top ranked teams here.  They have the 2nd best short program and 3rd best free skate and total scores of the season.

Bazarova and Larionov are one of my favorite teams.  They are so classically Russian and are absolutely gorgeous to watch on the ice.  Their lines are stunning and their programs are effortlessly put together.  While they are a very young team, they have had a lot of success this season and are quickly climbing the ranks.  Their biggest obstacle seems to be themselves as they haven’t been able to put together two clean programs and when they make a mistake it seems to affect the whole rest of the program.  I think this team has a ton of potential and if they can put it all together here, they have a shot at the podium.  They have the 4th best short program, free skate and total scores of the season.

Duhamel and Radford are a new team from Canada that have quickly risen the ranks into the top 10 teams.  They started with a respectable finish at Skate Canada, went on to win the silver medal at Canadian nationals and then put out solid programs to take home the silver medal at Four Continents.  They execute elements not seen on other teams such as side by side triple flips.  There has been some argument that their jumps are not always fully rotated and underrotation calls could really hurt them in this field.  I don’t think they’ll be in contention for the podium, but a good finish this year could really set them up for next season.  They have the 10th best short program, 5th best free skate and 5th best total score of the season.

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch are another team out of Canada.  They had a great start to their season winning medals at both their assignments and qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.  They finished a disappointing 6th despite no major errors and went on to finish 5th at Four Continents.  Their scores have also been on a downward trend all season.  I’m not sure exactly what it is that the judges are no longer liking with this team, but they’ll be looking for some redemption here.  They have the 5th best short program and 8th best free skates and total scores of the season.

Yankowskas and Coughlin have come into their own the season and will enter their first Worlds as the reigning U.S. Champs.  After a personally difficult year, they were able to come up with a gorgeous free skate to Ave Maria in honor of John’s mother.  All of the technical elements are there and when they hit everything and can just perform it is truly a magical program.  Their tango short is also a good fit for them and allows them to show off another side of their skating.  They just missed the podium at Four Continents but had a number of errors in their program.  With the extra practice and their nerves under control, they should be able to go out and nail both programs and should be rewarded for their efforts.

Evora and Ladwig have not seen great results this season despite winning their first Grand Prix medal.  They changed their short program which was their weakness earlier in the season and their scores were greatly improved at the Grand Prix Final.  They have the best lifts in the World and can really rack up the points here.  Amanda Evora is engaged to Jeremy Barrett who recently announced his retirement from skating.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she retired after Worlds as well, and I expect them to leave everything out on the ice here.

Volosozhar and Trankov are a new team formed from two top ranked teams last season.  This is the first ISU competition they are eligible to compete in.  They won the Russian title earlier this season and their scores at a spring competition put them right at the top of the pack.  The extra month of training time should be an advantage for them but they already looked fairly polished earlier this season.  I think they’ll have the goods to deliver, but having never competed before as a team, the judges may be looking at them more critically.

Absent from this event are Iliushechkina/Maisuradze (7th best total score) of Russia, Lawrence/Swiegers (9th best total score and Four Continents bronze medalists) of Canada and Gerboldt/Enbert (10th best total score) of Russia.  Both countries have incredibly deep fields and were outscored at their nationals events.  Sui/Han (6th best total score and Grand Prix Final bronze medalists) are not age eligible for this event.

My podium predictions: 
Gold: Savchenko/Szolkowy
Silver: Volosozhar/Trankov
Bronze: Kavaguti/Smirnov

My USFSA Fantasy Team:
A) Savchenko/Szolkowy
B) Yankowskas/Coughlin
C) Kadlecova/Bidar

The competitors:
Martini/Kiefer, AUT: They placed 15th at Europeans with personal best free skate and total scores and 16th at the World Junior Championships with a personal best short program.

Bakirova/Kamianchuk, BLR: They finished 10th at Europeans with personal best scores across the board.  They were 19th at Worlds last season.

Malakhova/Kenchadze, BUL: This is their first season together.

Duhamel/Radford, CAN: They are the reigning Four Continents Silver Medalists with personal best scores across the board.  They finished 5th at Skate Canada.

Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, CAN: They placed 5th at Four Continents.  They finished 6th at the Grand Prix Final after winning silver at Skate Canada with personal best scores across the board and silver at Skate America with personal best short program and total scores.

Dong/Wu, CHN: They placed 10th at Four Continents.   They won bronze at the 2008 World Junior Championships.  They placed 7th at Skate Canada and Cup of China.  Dong and Wu placed 17th at the World Championships last season.

Pang/Tong, CHN: Pang and Tong won silver at the Olympics and are the reigning World Champions and Four Continents Champions.  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 the NHK Trophy and Cup of China to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they took the silver.

Zhang/Wang, CHN: They finished 9th at Four Continents.  They finished 8th at NHK Trophy.

Kadlecova/Bidar, CZE: They placed 7th at Europeans with personal best scores across the board.  They finished 8th at the World Junior Championships.  They finished 7th at both their Junior Grand Prix assignments and placed 6th at Trophee Eric Bompard with a personal best short program.

Nabijako/Kulbach, EST: They finished 13th at Europeans.

Canac/Bonheur, FRA:  They placed 9th at Europeans.

Hausch/Wende, GER: They finished 17th at the Olympics.  They placed 6th at Europeans.  They finished 7th at NHK Trophy with a personal best free skate and total score and won bronze at Trophee Eric Bompard with personal best scores across the board.  They were 14th at Worlds last season.

Savchenko/Szolkowy, GER: They won bronze at the Olympics.  They are the reigning World Silver Medalists and European Champions.  They have 2 additional Gold and 1 Bronze medal at the World Championships and 3 Gold and 2 silvers at Europeans.  They won gold at Skate America and Trophee Eric Bompard to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won gold.

Kemp/King, GBR: They placed 16th at Olympics. They placed 8th at Europeans.  They finished 8th at Skate Canada and Skate America.  They were 16th at Worlds last season.

Montalblano/Krasnopolski, ISR: They finished 25th at Worlds last season.

Berton/Hotarek, ITA: They placed 5th at Europeans with personal best scores across the board.  They placed 6th at Cup of Russia with personal best free skate and total scores.  They finished 11th at Worlds last season.

Takahashi/Tran, JPN: They are the reigning Junior World bronze medalists.  They placed 7th at Four Continents.  They won silver at J. Curry Memorial and Pokal der Blauen to qualify for the JGP where they won gold.  They won bronze at NHK Trophy and silver at Rostelecom Cup in their debut season on the Grand Prix.

Bazarova/Larionov, RUS: They finished 11th at the Olympics.  They are the reigning European bronze medalists with personal best free skate and total scores.  They won silver at NHK Trophy with personal best scores across the board and at Trophee Eric Bompard with personal best scores across the board to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they finished 5th.  They were 8th at Worlds last season.

Kavaguti/Smirnov, RUS: They finished 4th at the Olympics.  They are the reigning Worlds Bronze Medalists and European Silver Medalists.  They also won bronze at the World Championships in 2009 and a silver and bronze at Europeans.  They are the 2010 European Champions.  They won gold at Cup of Russia.

Volosozhar/Trankov, RUS: They are the reigning national champions.  This is their first season together.

Evora/Ladwig, USA: They placed 10th at the Olympics.  They finished 5th at Four Continents.  They finished 5th at Cup of China and won bronze at Cup of Russia.  They were 9th at Worlds last season.

Yankowskas/Coughlin, USA: They placed 4th at the Four Continents Championships with a personal best free skate and total score.  They finished 4th at NHK Trophy and won bronze at Cup of China with personal best scores across the board.