Savchenko and Szolkowy are competing for their third consecutive and 5th total World title in hopes of setting themselves up for Olympic gold next year in Sochi. They have had some troubles this season and had to withdraw from their second Grand Prix assignment due to her sinus infection and missed the chance to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. They have been battling with Volosozhar and Trankov for the top placements but have always come out on top until Europeans.
Volosozhar and Trankov not only beat the Germans at Europeans, but did so by 7 points, a far cry from the point or less margin they've been separated by in the past. They also have a four point lead over the Germans in the free skate this season. Both teams had a slow start to the season and neither has spectacular programs this season. Both have great twists and throws and nice lifts. Volosozhar and Trankov are chasing their first World Championship title and are Russia's best homes of a Pairs gold in Sochi after all the Russian teams finished off the podium in 2010.
Bazarova and Larionov have had one of their best seasons, winning two Grand Prix medals and claiming the silver medal at the Grand Prix Final. An injury kept them out of Russian nationals and Europeans. They are still having struggles with their side by side jumps, a problem that has plagued them each season, but they've been able to improve their other elements in order to compensate for those errors. They crossed the 200 point at the Final and seem poised to take over as the top Russian pair after Sochi. They placed 6th at Worlds last season and seem ready to claim their first World medal.
Duhamel and Radford have been continuing to improve and claimed their first Four Continents title last month. They finished just off the podium at the Grand Prix Final and have some of the most difficult content planned in their side by side jumps along with solid throws and an improved triple twist. They finished just a hair shy of the 200 point mark at Four Continents and have the advantage of competing in front of the home crowd.
Moore-Towers and Moscovitch have been chasing Duhamel and Radford all season. They finished ahead of their teammates in the free skate at Four Continents to claim the silver medal. The rivalry between the two teams has helped to push them to the top of the world standings and they'll also have the support of the home crowd. If both Canadian teams skate their best, they could qualify a third pairs team for their country at the Olympics next year.
Pang and Tong have had a consistent if underwhelming season. They have been vocal about their difficulties with injuries that have effected their ability to train at full capacity. They've struggled with their side by side jumps because of their injuries and had to withdraw from Four Continents. They won two medals on the Grand Prix and took home the bronze from the Final, but they'll need to land all their elements if they hope to claim a spot on the Worlds podium.
Sui and Han are a wild card at this event. After winning three Junior World titles, winning a Four Continents title and finishing in the top 10 at Worlds last season, they sat out the entirety of this season due to her growth injury. Their training has been restricted and they spent time off the ice. They haven't competed in a year and will be showing off new programs for the first time. However, they have quads in their arsenal along with an infectious personality on the ice. Their personal best is over 200 points, so at their best they are podium threats.
Berton and Hotarek placed 11th at Worlds last season but seem poised to make a big jump in the standings. After winning bronze at both of their Grand Prix events, they had a 15 point improvement in their scores to claim the bronze medal at Europeans. They would need another 13 point improvement to be podium contenders but they're likely to have a personal best performance at Worlds and set themselves up well for next year.
My podium predictions:
Bios of the competitors:
Makarova/Kenchadze, BUL: They placed 11th in the preliminary round at Worlds last season. They placed 12th at Europeans. Their personal best is 115.96. She is 17 and he is 26.
Duhamel/Radford, CAN: They placed 5th at Worlds last season. They are the reigning Four Continents Champions. They won silver at Skate Canada and Trophee Eric Bompard to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they finished 4th. They are the 2011 Four Continents Silver Medalists. Their personal best is 199.18. She is 27 and he is 28. They have the 3rd best short program, 5th best free skate and 4th best total scores.
Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, CAN: They are the reigning Four Continents Silver Medalists. They placed 4th at Cup of China and won silver at NHK Trophy to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they finished 5th. Their personal best is 196.78. She is 20 and he is 28. They have the 7th best short program, 4th best free skate and 5th best total scores.
Pang/Tong, CHN: They finished 4th at Worlds last season. They won silver at Skate America and gold at Cup of China to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won bronze. They are the 2010 Olympic Silver Medalists; 2006 and 2010 World Champions; 2007 World Silver Medalists; 2004 and 2011 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 33 and he is 33. They have the 5th best short program, 6th best free skate and 6th best total scores.
Peng/Zhang, CHN: They placed 5th at Four Continents. They finished 5th at Cup of China and 4th at Trophee Eric Bompard. Their personal best is 167.76. She is 15 and he is 28.
Sui/Han, CHN: They placed 9th at Worlds last season. They are the 2012 Four Continents Champions and the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Junior Worlds Champions. Their personal best is 201.83. She is 17 and he is 20.
James/Cipres, FRA: They finished 16th at Worlds last season. They placed 4th at Europeans. They placed 4th at Skate America and 6th at Trophee Eric Bompard. Their personal best is 178.81. She is 25 and he is 21. They have the 10th best free skate and total scores.
Savchenko/Szolkowy, GER: They are the reigning World Champions and European Silver Medalists. They won gold at Skate Canada. They are the 2010 Olympic Bronze Medalists; 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 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 29 and he is 33. They have the 2nd best short program, free skate and total scores.
Vartmann/Van Cleave, GER: They placed 14th at Worlds last season. They finished 8th at Europeans. Their personal best is 154.99. She is 24 and he is 25.
Kemp/King, GBR: They finished 19th at Worlds last season. They placed 10th at Europeans. Their personal best is 139.94. She is 24 and he is 28.
Berton/Hotarek, ITA: They finished 11th at Worlds last season. They are the reigning European Bronze Medalists. They won bronze at Skate Canada and at Trophee Eric Bompard. Their personal best is 187.45. She is 22 and he is 29. They have the 8th best short program, 7th best free skate and 8th best total scores.
Della Monica/Guarise, ITA: They placed 15th at Worlds last season. They finished 9th at Europeans. They finished 7th at Rostelecom Cup and 7th at NHK Trophy. Their personal best is 142.53. She is 23 and he is 24.
Klatka/Chruscinski, POL: They placed 15th at Europeans. Their personal best is 118.48. She is 15 and he is 21.
Bazarova/Larionov, RUS: They finished 6th at Worlds last season. They won silver at Rostelecom Cup and gold at NHK Trophy to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won silver. They are the 2012 European Silver Medalists, 2011 European Bronze Medalists and 2007 World Junior Silver Medalists. Their personal best is 201.60. She is 20 and he is 26. They have the 4th best short program, 3rd best free skate and 3rd best total scores.
Kavaguti/Smirnov, RUS: They finished 7th at Worlds last season. They placed 5th at Europeans They won silver at Cup of China and gold at Trophee Eric Bompard to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they placed 6th. 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 31 and he is 28. They have the 6th best short program, 8th best free skate and 7th best total scores.
Volosozhar/Trankov, RUS: They are the reigning World Silver Medalists and European Champions. They won gold at Skate America and Rostelecom Cup to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won gold. They are the 2011 World Silver Medalists and 2011 European Champions. Their personal best is 212.45. She is 26 and he is 29. They have the best short program, free skate and total scores of the season.
Castelli/Shnapir, USA: They are the reigning Four Continents Bronze Medalists. They placed 5th at Skate America and won bronze at NHK Trophy. They are the 2009 World Junior Bronze Medalists. Their personal best is 174.51. She is 22 and he is 25. They have the 9th best short program score.
Scimeca/Knierim, USA: They placed 4th at NHK Trophy. Their personal best is 163.10. She is 21 and he is 25.