Thursday, December 8, 2011

Grand Prix Final Pairs Preview

Volosozhar and Trankov won both of their events this season and continue to improve.  Despite being one of the top teams in the World, they've been together for only a little over a year and the Final is their 4th major international event.  They have huge throws and great lifts but made a major mistake at their last event when they popped their triple twist into a single.  They have the best short program, 3rd best free skate and 2nd best total score of the season. 

Savchenko and Szolkowy have struggled with some of their elements throughout the Grand Prix, despite winning two golds and a bronze.  They had to abort a lift at their second event and attempted throw triple axels in the short program of their first two events.  They focused on a clean skate at Cup of Russia and their Pina free skate really came to life.  The program has unique choreography and a different style than other teams are using.  They have the 2nd best short progam and best free skate and total scores of the season.

Kavaguti and Smirnov have a more elegant, refined style this season and their Claire de Lune free skate can be breathtaking when skated cleanly.  Their biggest downfalls are that she is so flexible that sometimes she doesn't seem to have complete control of her limbs, and she has a shoulder injury which can make some of their lifts difficult.  They have the 3rd best short program, 2nd best free skate and 3rd best total score of the season.

The Zhangs returned to competition after a full season off and won silver at both their events.  They aren't back to their full capacity and don't have the same performance quality of the top Chinese teams but they can hit some nice elements.  Without the PCS to back up their technical marks and with many of the top teams on par with them technically, they're likely to be left off the medal stand.  They have the 4th best short program, 7th best free skate and 6th best total score of the season.

Takahashi and Tran claimed silver at home to earn their spot in the Grand Prix Final for the first time.  Last season they competed a full junior and senior season and ran out of steam by the end.  This season, with just the senior competitions to worry about, their skating has really shown itself to be clean, effortless and enjoyable to watch.  They have the 7th best short program and 10th best free skate and total scores of the season.

Duhamel and Radford are in only their second season as a team and have shown real improvements this season, including on their triple twist which gave them some problems at Worlds last season.  She has great expression on the ice and they have a lot of difficulty in their side by side elements.  They have the 9th best free skate and 8th best total score of the season.

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

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