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Saturday, March 24, 2012

World Championships: Pairs Preview

Volosozhar and Trankov are in only their second season together and already have one world medal and a European Championship.  They have big triple twists and throws and lots of power but show their elegant side in their Black Swan free skate.  They just missed out on the gold at the Grand Prix Final and will be looking to move up the podium here.  They have the best short program, 2nd best free skate and 2nd best total score of the season.

Savchenko and Szolkowy will be looking to defend their title after taking home two gold medals on the Grand Prix and a gold at the Grand Prix Final.  They withdrew from the European Championships due to injury.  They've been attempting a throw triple axel this season and have yet to land it successfully.  Their free skate set to music from Pina has lots of unique elements and choreography.  One of their signature elements is a throw triple right at the end of their free skate.  They have the 2nd best short program, best free skate and best total score of the season.

Bazarova and Larionov have stunning lines and beautiful lift positions but lack consistency in the jump elements and often lack an emotional connection with each other in their programs.  When they're on, they can be one of the top teams in the world, but one mistake tends to be their unraveling.  They tend to perform better in the short program where there are less elements to contend with.  They have the 3rd best short program, 5th best free skate and 5th best total score of the season.

Sui and Han have been pulling double duty this season on the junior and senior circuit.  They secured their third World Junior title and the Four Continents title earlier this year, breaking 200 points for the first time in their career.  They have tons of energy, difficult lifts, throw quads and a quad twist which gives them a huge technical edge, but they are still a young team and lack the polish of some of the top competitors.  With big elements also comes big risk, and they've been knocked off the podium when their quad twist has gone awry.  They have the 4th best short program, 3rd best free skate and 3rd best total score of the season.

Kavaguti and Smirnov have had a good season with two gold medals on the Grand Prix and a bronze at the Final.  They've been struggling with injuries to her shoulders and had to withdraw from Europeans after Smirnov had emergency surgery to remove his appendix.  They have some gorgeous lifts and when their Claire de Lune free skate is done right the program is magical.  They have the 5th best short program, 4th best free skate and 4th best total score of the season.

Denney and Coughlin are in their first season together and took home the silver medal from Four Continents.  They have huge twists and throws and always look like they're enjoying being out on the ice but neither skater is well known for the finesse.  They've been working all season to fine tune and tweak their programs as they got more comfortable in the partnership and to maximize the PCS points.  They have the 7th best short program, 6th best free skate and 6th best total score of the season.

Marley and Brubaker are in only their second season together and Marley is only in her second year as a pair girl.  They won the short program at U.S. Nationals with a clean skate and tons of bubbly energy and Marley showed her toughness when she hung on to her throw jumps after Brubaker made mistakes on the side by side elements.  They had a nearly 40 point improvement in their personal best at Four Continents where they won the bronze medal and they are still growing together as a team.  They have a great connection on the ice and if they hit everything have the potential to place well.  They have the 8th best short program, 9th best free skate and 8th best total score of the season.

Duhamel and Radford had a great debut season last year capped by a 7th place finish at Worlds.  They won two bronze medals on the Grand Prix to earn their first trip to the Grand Prix Final.  After taking home their first Canadian title, they struggled at Four Continents but were able to pull up in their free skate.  After Four Continents, they both vacationed and came back rested and ready to work and have stated their back to their full competitive form and hope to move up the rankings.  They have the 9th best short program, 10th best free skate and 10th best total score of the season.

Pang and Tong will be the spoilers at this event, having not competed at all this season.  They have an impressive resume and great choreography by Lori Nichols.  It took them a long time last season to regain their form and land on the podium at Worlds and they won't have any feedback on their new programs to help guide their levels.  The podium is within their reach but only if they are in their peak competitive form.

Also in the mix are NHK Trophy Silver Medalists Takahashi and Tran who have the 10th best short program of the season and Rostelecom Cup Bronze Medalists Berton and Hotarek.

Notable teams not competing here are European Bronze Medalists Stolbova/Klimov, Skate America and Cup of China Silver Medalists Zhang/Zhang, Skate America and Cup of China Bronze Medalists Moore-Towers/Moscovitch.

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

Bios of the competitors:
Martini/Kiefer, AUT: They finished 21st at Worlds last season.  They placed 15th at Europeans and 15th at Junior Worlds.  They placed 16th at JGP Austria.  Their personal best is 112.10.  She is 19 and he is 21.

Bakirova/Kamianchuk, BLR: They finished 19th at Worlds last season.  They placed 10th at Europeans.  Their personal best is 122.25.  She is 19 and he is 24.

Makarova/Kenchadze, BUL: They placed 17th at Europeans.  She is 17 and he is 25.


Dube/Wolfe, CAN (Direct Entry): They placed 8th at Four Continents.  They placed 6th at Skate Canada and 5th at Trophee Eric Bompard.  Their personal best is 158.44.  She is 24 and he is 22.

Duhamel/Radford, CAN (Direct Entry):  They placed 7th at Worlds last season.  They finished 4th at Four Continents.  They won bronze at Skate Canada and Trophee Eric Bompard to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they finished 5th.  Their personal best is 181.79.  She is 26 and he is 27.

Pang/Tong, CHN (Direct Entry): They are the reigning Worlds Bronze Medalists.  They are the 2010 Olympic Silver Medalists; 2006 and 2010 World Champions; 2007 World Silver Medalists; 2004 World Bronze Medalists; 2002, 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2011 Four Continents Champions; and 2003, 2005 and 2007 Four Continents Silver Medalists.  Their personal best is 213.31.  She is 32 and he is 32.

Sui/Han, CHN: They are the reigning Four Continents Champions and World Junior Champions.  They won silver at Skate Canada and placed 5th at Cup of China.  They won gold at JGP Austria and Latvia to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final where they won gold.  They are the 2011 and 2010 World Junior Champions.  Their personal best is 201.83.  She is 16 and he is 19.

Ri/Thae, PRK: She is 16 and he is 24.

James/Cipres, FRA: They finished 6th at Europeans.  They placed 8th at Trophee Eric Bompard.  Their personal best is 151.93.  She is 24 and he is 19.


Hausch/Wende, GER (Direct Entry): They finished 12th at Worlds last season.  They placed 7th at Europeans.  They placed 8th at Skate America.  Their personal best is 157.42.  She is 23 and he is 27.

Savchenko/Szolkowy, GER (Direct Entry): They are the reigning World Champions.  They won gold at Skate America, bronze at NHK Trophy and gold at Rostelecom Cup to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won gold.  They are the 2010 Olympic Bronze Medalists; 2008 and 2009 World Champions; 2010 World Silver Medalists; 2007 World Bronze Medalists; 2007, 2008 2009 and 2011 European Champions and 2006 and 2010 European Silver Medalists.  Their personal best is 217.85.  She is 28 and he is 32.

Vartmann/Van Cleave, GER: They placed 5th at Europeans.  Their personal best is 154.99.  She is 23 and he is 24.

Kemp/King, GBR: They finished 17th at Worlds last season.  They finished 9th at Europeans.  Their personal best is 139.94.  She is 23 and he is 27.

Montalbano/Krasnopolski, ISR: They finished 20th at Worlds last season.  They placed 11th at Europeans.  Their personal best is 120.32.  She is 23 and he is 23.

Berton/Hotarek, ITA (Direct Entry): They finished 10th at Worlds last season.  They placed 4th at Europeans.  They placed 4th at NHK Trophy and won bronze at Rostelecom Cup.  Their personal best is 168.02.  She is 21 and he is 28.

Della Monica/Guarise, ITA: She is 22 and he is 23.

Takahashi/Tran, JPN (Direct Entry): They placed 9th at Worlds last season.  They finished 5th at Four Continents.  They placed 4th at Skate Canada and won silver at NHK Trophy to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they finished 6th.  They are the 2010 World Junior Silver Medalists.  Their personal best is 172.09.  She is 20 and he is 21.

Bazarova/Larionov, RUS (Direct Entry): They finished 5th at Worlds last season.  They are the reigning  European Silver Medalists.  They placed 5th at Skate America and won silver at Trophee Eric Bompard.  They are the 2011 European Bronze Medalists and  2007 World Junior Silver Medalists.  Their personal best is 193.79.  She is 19 and he is 25.

Kavaguti/Smirnov, RUS (Direct Entry): They finished 4th at Worlds last season.  They won gold at Cup of China, gold at NHK Trophy and silver at Rostelecom Cup to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won bronze.  They are the 2009 and 2010 World Bronze Medalists, 2010 European Champions, 2009 and 2011 European Silver Medalists and 2008 European Bronze Medalists.  Their personal best is 213.15.  She is 30 and he is 27.

Volosozhar/Trankov, RUS (Direct Entry): They are the reigning World Silver Medalists and European Champions.  They won gold at Skate Canada and Trophee Eric Bompard to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won silver.  Their personal best is 212.08.  She is 25 and he is 28.

Morand/Leeman, SUI: They finished 14th at Europeans.  They placed 13th at JGP Austria.  Their personal best is 114.20.  She is 18 and he is 20.

Denney/Coughlin, USA (Direct Entry): They are the reigning Four Continents Silver Medalists.  They placed 4th at Skate America and 5th at NHK Trophy.  Their personal best is 185.42.  She is 18 and he is 26.


Marley/Brubaker, USA (Direct Entry): They are the reigning Four Continents Bronze Medalists.  They finished 7th at Skate America.  Their personal best is 178.69.  She is 16 and he is 25.

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