Worlds Preview: Pairs

So, we’re finally down to the big event. The pairs competition at Worlds starts next Wednesday, March 25! I can’t wait. I think it’ll be a great competition, and I expect a lot of season’s-best performances, especially from the Chinese pairs, who will be competing at home.

In looking at the pairs, I wanted to get a solid sense of the numbers. So I took all the scores from the main international events this fall/winter and combined them to generate an average total score for each pair (as well as average BV, GOE, TES, PCS, and deductions scores).

Spreadsheet-snapshot

The events that I used for this analysis are: Grand Prix series, Grand Prix Final, Europeans, 4CCs, and Winter Universiade. I did not include Nationals scores due to score inflation (except in one case that I’ll explain later). And I did not include Senior Bs, because score inflation also happens there, plus most senior Bs took place early in the season. After some hesitation, I did include Winter Universiade. Universiade is more like a Senior B than a GP, but it’s also a late-season event and provided an extra reference point for 4 pairs who will be at Worlds.

So based on this analysis, let’s take a look at the field and what to expect.

Going for Gold: The Main Contenders

Duhamel/Radford are heavily favored to win their first World title, following Stolbova/Klimov’s surprise decision to skip Worlds. Paradoxically, I think their job in Shanghai became harder with S/K’s withdrawal. With S/K in, Duhamel/Radford knew what they had to do: Skate 2 flawless programs. Without S/K, it’s less clear. Can D/R afford 1 mistake and still win? 2 mistakes? It’s unknown. In addition, coming into Worlds as the big favorite is a completely new role for D/R. They’ve always been the challengers. Being the favorite puts a lot more pressure on them. I think they’ll be able to handle it, but it probably won’t be easy.

On the cusp of victory?  (Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images AsiaPac)
On the cusp of victory? (Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images AsiaPac)

If Duhamel/Radford stay calm, do their job, and skate as well as they have all season, they should walk away with a fairly easy victory. They are undefeated this year. They own the season’s best scores for both SP and LP. Their average base value (BV) lead over the field is 8.64 points. They have the judges’ respect and are getting great PCS. Everything is in their favor. If they skate like they did at the GP Final or even 4CCs, the title should be theirs.

Pang/Tong‘s return was a huge surprise to me. I really did not expect to see this veteran couple competing after Sochi. But they are indeed back, as they proved with their 4CC bronze. And I think they’re actually a much bigger threat at Worlds than many people realize. Among some skating fans, there’s a sense that Pang/Tong are yesterday’s news. But, I think it would be a mistake to write them off.

Pang/Tong:  Still a threat  (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images AsiaPac)
Pang/Tong: Still a threat (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Let’s start with the obvious. Pang/Tong have, by far, the best resume of any team competing in Shanghai: Olympic silver medalists; 2-time World champions; 3 other World medals. The judges will be thinking of this as they watch Pang/Tong skate. And the judges sent a very clear message at 4CCs that they still consider Pang/Tong a top pair. P/T scored 104.02 in total PCS at that event, higher than any other team at Worlds has all season except D/R. Their long-program PCS (70.80) was higher than any PCS they received last season. Their GOE was very high, too.

The one thing that held P/T back at 4CCs was their base value, and it’s within their power to improve that significantly in Shanghai. They can’t get it up to Duhamel/Radford’s level, or even to Kavaguti/Smirnov’s. However, they can get it fairly close if they land their SBS jumps in the LP, and clean up their 5A lift and pairs combo spin levels. They typically get better GOE than K/S, so even if they’re a little behind in BV, Pang/Tong could still beat K/S technically if they land those SBS jumps. Pang/Tong seldom went clean on their SBSs last year, and if Worlds were anywhere other than China, I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to do so this year. However, with Worlds in Shanghai, I think we will see their best possible performance at this point.

All in all, if Pang/Tong can complete those SBSs and skate to their usual level, I think they will likely win silver over Kavaguti/Smirnov. And, if D/R make mistakes, Pang/Tong could very well take the title again.

Kavaguti/Smirnov are sentimental favorites, with their wonderful programs and their inspiring return from Sasha’s major injury. Many would like to see this pair win, or at least get a medal. Will it happen? I think a medal is fully within reach, but they’re a long shot for the title.

Kavaguti/Smirnov:  Back on the World podium?  (Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images AsiaPac)
Kavaguti/Smirnov: Back on the World podium? (Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Kavaguti/Smirnov undoubtedly have the best programs of any pair right now (although we’ve yet to see P/T’s new Secret Garden SP). Their programs have been almost universally acclaimed. Despite this, their average PCS is not as high as they’d probably like. It’s very good. But their best total PCS score of 103.56 from Euros was beaten by Pang/Tong’s 104.02 at 4CCs. And Duhamel/Radford have scored as high as 106.37. So, despite their magnificent programs, K/S do not have a PCS advantage. They may get a bit of a boost in Shanghai as Russia #1, but I think it will be balanced out by P/T’s home-country advantage.

Their season-high TES score was 106.77 at Skate America. Meanwhile, D/R’s average TES is 109.68, with a high of 114.46. And unlike Pang/Tong, K/S really don’t have room to increase their base value. The TES they achieved at Skate America was with a nearly maxed-out program. So the only way they can go higher is to perform their elements with better quality, and I just don’t think they can achieve much quality increase in the short time before Worlds.

I don’t think K/S have the scoring firepower to take the title unless D/R make probably 2 major mistakes. Assuming a good performance from Pang/Tong, I see Kavaguti/Smirnov in bronze-medal position. They may have a chance at silver if Pang/Tong don’t skate to expectations.

The Other Medal Contenders: Peng/Zhang and Sui/Han

These two Chinese pairs are so close competitively. Sui/Han won GPF bronze to Peng/Zhang‘s 4th place; P/Z won 4CC silver to S/H’s 4th. They are 2nd/3rd in average GOE; they are 4th/5th in average PCS. Both pairs have skated very well this season but not gone completely clean in any event.

Peng/Zhang and Sui/Han  (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images AsiaPac; David Ramos/Getty Images Europe)
Peng/Zhang and Sui/Han (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images AsiaPac; David Ramos/Getty Images Europe)

When you compare their average total score, Sui/Han have a clear lead. Their average score is 194.63 to Peng/Zhang’s 192.43. However, I think momentum is on Peng/Zhang’s side. In their most recent meeting at 4CCs, P/Z beat S/H overall by 2.57 points. And while P/Z showed improvement from GPF to 4CCs, S/H’s best performance of the season was actually several months ago at TEB. Since then, S/H have been trending slightly down (and Sui has been looking not that happy). Peng/Zhang’s average PCS is also 1.67 points higher than S/H’s. I see this as an indication that the judges prefer P/Z, all things being equal technically.

The key for Peng/Zhang is the SBS jumps. At 4CCs, they had only mistake on the SBSs and still won silver. If they put out a similar program at Worlds, my feeling is they will take 4th place, with Sui/Han in 5th. If both teams were to compete clean (which hasn’t happened yet), I think Sui/Han might come out on top due to higher BV, home-crowd reaction to their big elements, and consequently higher PCS. It’s just so close between these two pairs.

If Kavaguti/Smirnov falter, which is entirely possible, either Peng/Zhang or Sui/Han will be on the podium. Most likely, Peng/Zhang.

Getting Close to the Top: Scimeca/Knierim and Tarasova/Morozov

The top 5 teams in this event are pretty far ahead of the field. The best of the rest, in my opinion, are Scimeca/Knierim and Tarasova/Morozov.

Tarasova/Morozov and Scimeca/Knierim
Tarasova/Morozov and Scimeca/Knierim

Scimeca/Knierim have stated their goal is top 6. Can they do it? Yes, I have confidence they can. Alexa/Chris have improved steadily this season and set new season’s bests at 4CCs. All the numbers support that they can place top 6. Across the competitions I looked at, Scimeca/Knierim are 6th in average total score among all pairs competing in Shanghai. They are 7th in PCS; 7th in total TES; 3rd in BV; 9th in GOE. They also have momentum, after their win at Nationals and good scores at 4CCs. In their teleconference this week, they sounded composed and ready. Obviously, they’ll need to skate clean and execute very well to get that 6th place. And they’ll need the quad twist. But I believe they can and will do it. Not to add to the pressure on Alexa/Chris . . . But the fact is, if they take 6th place, the U.S. has a chance at getting 3 spots for our home Worlds next year. Still a very slim chance, but at least a chance.

Tarasova/Morozov are the other team that I think could knock at the door. This pair has it all: Big, high-quality elements, great skating skills, lovely unison and line, great artistic potential. The only thing missing has been confidence and consistency. Their jumps tend to be either terrific or not landed at all. T/M showed what they’re capable of at Russian Nationals, where they won the free skate over both Kavaguti/Smirnov and Stolbova/Klimov (and hit 85.50 in total BV, a high number). If they skate very well at Worlds, they could potentially place top 6 or higher. Their ISU season’s-best score is only 9th among the pairs in Shanghai, but their talent and X-factor is such that I see them higher. Across the competitions I looked at, their average total score was 6th. Their average PCS was also 6th, which means the judges see them as a very good team. They come into Worlds with some momentum after a bronze at Euros. My feeling is the quad twist will keep Scimeca/Knierim ahead of T/M at this event. But it’s only a matter of time before Tarasova/Morozov will be contending for World medals.

The Middle of the Pack

There are about 6 teams I see as “the middle of the pack,” so to speak: Marchei/Hotarek, Seguin/Bilodeau, Ilyushechkina/Moscovitch, Denney/Frazier, Astakhova/Rogonov, and James/Cipres.

These 6 teams are somewhat close in scores, but quite different in their strengths and weaknesses. All will be trying to stay in the top 10.

A problem with assessing this group is that 3 of these pairs (M/H, I/M, A/R) are brand-new and only competed in 1 or 2 of the events I looked at. With their average score based on only 1 event in some cases, it’s hard to know if that score will hold true at Worlds. The case of Seguin/Bilodeau is even more complicated. They competed in only 1 senior event–Canadian Nationals–obviously not an ideal score to work with. With S/B, I wound up using their Nationals scores as their TES number and their Junior Worlds scores as their PCS mark!

I think these 6 teams may be very close in their final placements at Worlds and could end up in several different orders.

Marchei/Hotarek made a big impression at Euros, unexpectedly placing 4th. Their base value was low, but their GOE and PCS were surprisingly high for such a new team. Was this beginner’s luck, or a sign of success to come? What is certain is this pair has charisma, great performance quality, light, smooth lifts, and the SBS 3Lz. Both Valentina and Ondrej have prior experience at Worlds, so that will help in Shanghai. At Euros, they competed with only a double twist; if they add a triple twist for Shanghai, that would raise their BV by at least 2 points.

Marchei/Hotarek:  Surprising success at Euros
Marchei/Hotarek: Surprising success at Euros

Seguin/Bilodeau have been executing their jump elements very consistently and have strong skating skills. Their scores from Canadians (TES)/Junior Worlds (PCS) compare well to the other teams in this group. However, my feeling is they will probably drop in PCS in Shanghai, as they are competing against a much larger field of quality contenders than at Junior Worlds. Their programs are good but will not likely stand out in Shanghai the way they did in smaller competitions. Also, lifts are not their best element, and so the addition of a third lift in the senior LP (as opposed to 2 in junior LP) will not be a big plus for them. Their strong jumps may keep them in it if other pairs in this group falter. But, I see S/B placing toward the bottom of this group.

Ilyushechkina/Moscovitch will be competing in their first Worlds together. At 4CCs, they did quite well. Their total base value was a very strong 83.72 (4th average in competitions I looked at). I felt they were underscored in PCS at 4CCs, yet their score would still place them 9th in average PCS. So, I think they’re looking good heading into Worlds. Luba/Dylan’s weak point right now is GOE. At Worlds, they must try to land their elements cleanly and with as much quality as they can manage. But I feel good about their chances. They’re in a great position. With D/R almost guaranteed to place top 2, Luba/Dylan as Canadian #2 need only place 11th or better to retain Canada’s 3 spots. That should be quite manageable. So there’s little pressure, and they can just enjoy the experience and make a good impression.

Ilyushechkina/Moscovitch:  Their first Worlds together  (Photo: SPOTOPNYK)
Ilyushechkina/Moscovitch: Their first Worlds together (Photo: SPOTOPNYK)

Astakhova/Rogonov are also in their first Worlds. Unlike M/H and I/M, they come in with neither partner having experience at senior Worlds. However, they have lots of experience competing in the pressure-cooker world of Russian pairs. This pair is popular with fans; people like their consistency and interesting programs. Astakhova/Rogonov’s strong point is base value; they hit their elements pretty reliably. They aren’t getting a lot of positive GOE. However, their technical consistency and the basic good quality of their skating has propelled them to several medals this season. Like I/M, they will face little pressure in Shanghai. With 2 strong Russian pairs in front of them, the Russian team should have no problem retaining 3 spots. A/R’s ISU season’s-best score is 7th among all teams competing at Worlds. However, this score was obtained at a senior B. A/R’s average total score at the competitions I looked at places them 12th. We’ll see which number turns out to be closer.

Astakhova/Rogonov:  Strong base value  (Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images Europe)
Astakhova/Rogonov: Strong base value (Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images Europe)

Denney/Frazier are the #2 American team at Worlds. D/F are so talented, but had a somewhat disappointing 4CCs. They also just announced a switch to Ingo Steuer as their sole coach. I’m hoping Haven/Brandon can regroup and end the season with a strong Worlds. They have great programs, some really good elements, and a lot of quality to their skating. What’s been lacking is confidence, cleanness, and authority. I want them to believe in themselves and really go for it! Unlike I/M and A/R, Haven/Brandon are under a bit of pressure. Their season’s-best ISU score puts them 8th in this field, with Scimeca/Knierim 6th –very close to getting 3 pairs spots for the U.S. next year. However, realistically, D/F earned that season’s-best score back in October and have not come close to it since internationally. Their average total score places them 11th. Of course, I’d love to see them return to their Skate America form at Worlds! If they skated their absolute best in Shanghai, 7th place would be a stretch, but not impossible.

James/Cipres placed 10th at Worlds last year and started this season with hopes of making the Grand Prix Final. Things did not go to plan. Instead of progressing, James/Cipres have, if anything, gone backward. The only bright spot was their small medal in the short program at Euros; otherwise, it’s been a season of messy programs and disappointing placements. Their total average score places them 13th in this field. Their average BV is 13th; GOE 12th; TES 13th; PCS 13th. Their season’s-best ISU score is also 13th! Therefore, I anticipate them placing at the bottom of this group.

The Last Group: Fighting to Make the Long Program

The last group of pairs consists of 6 teams who will try to make it to the long program: Della Monica/Guarise, Vartmann/Van Cleave, Ziegler/Kiefer, Takahashi/Kihara, Fancy/Boyadji, and Paliakova/Bochkov. Three of these pairs will miss the cut.

Della Monica/Guarise:  Trying to move up  (Jamie McDonald/Getty Images Europe)
Della Monica/Guarise: Trying to move up (Jamie McDonald/Getty Images Europe)

Della Monica/Guarise are clearly the leaders. DM/G were 16th last year at Worlds, had a respectable season on the GP, and placed 6th at Euros. DM/G have decent base value/content in their programs. They also have a big lead over the other pairs in this group in average PCS and TES. What’s holding them back is GOE. Their net GOE in the competitions I looked at is slightly negative. So, they’re getting less than base value on their elements; obviously not a situation you want to be in. DM/G need to improve the quality of their elements to break into the group above them.

Predictions

After looking at the numbers and the season overall, my Worlds predictions are below.

1. Duhamel/Radford

2. Pang/Tong

3. Kavaguti/Smirnov

4. Peng/Zhang

5. Sui/Han

6. Scimeca/Knierim

7. Tarasova/Morozov

8. Marchei/Hotarek

9. Ilyushechkina/Moscovitch

10. Denney/Frazier

11. Astakhova/Rogonov

12. Seguin/Bilodeau

13. James/Cipres

14. Della Monica/Guarise

15. Vartmann/Van Cleave

16. Ziegler/Kiefer

17. Takahashi/Kihara

18. Fancy/Boyadji

19. Paliakova/Bochkov

I’ll be happy about any and all surprises, though. (Except for the American teams placing lower than predicted!)

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A Look Back at Junior Worlds Pairs

Although it’s been a couple weeks since Junior Worlds, I wanted to take a quick look back at the pairs event there. I have to admit, in the past I’ve never watched junior pairs. However, I was drawn into this year’s competition by the presence of Yu/Jin and Fields/Stevens. It turned out to be an interesting event. Some exciting new teams are about to make the jump to seniors, and it was fun to get an early preview of these pairs. Let’s take a look at the top 6 pairs and their future prospects as seniors.

JW-medialists

Junior-Worlds-standings

Yu/Jin

A lovely performance to win their second Junior Worlds
A lovely performance to win their second Junior Worlds

How did they do in Tallinn? Very well, obviously! Yu/Jin won both segments of the competition to earn their second consecutive Junior World title. I thought their “Humility & Love” LP was one of their strongest, most emotionally resonant performances this season. The program was technically solid too, with the only error being a slight 2-foot landing on the throw 3F.

Are they ready for the next level? They’re already there. Not only did Yu/Jin compete as seniors this season on the Grand Prix, they even made the senior GP Final. Still sad they won’t be at senior Worlds.

Technically, Yu/Jin are such a strong pair. They have a great base to build on. All their senior-level pairs elements—lifts, triple twist, throw triples, and SBS jumps—are good-quality and consistent. The question now is, do they focus on polishing those elements and continuing to improve quality, or do they follow the current trend in pairs and try to add a quad twist, quad throw, or higher-level SBS jump content? Yang Jin told IceNetwork that they worked on the throw quad Salchow in 2013, but stopped training it because partner Xiaoyu got injured practicing the element. So, I wonder if Yu/Jin will instead work toward a quad twist or upgraded SBS jumps. They can also work on improving their speed.

Even if they don’t add new technical elements, there’s still much room for growth with Yu/Jin. They created many beautiful moments in their programs this season; however, I’d like to see them hold their positions longer sometimes, for greater effect with the music. Also, their chemistry as a team is steadily growing, but they still seem a bit shy and restrained with each other. In some ways, this added to the mysterious, tantalizing quality of their LP this season. But I want to see them really go for it next year, build that chemistry, and not hold back at all.

Seguin/Bilodeau

Seguin/Bilodeau: A strong silver
Seguin/Bilodeau: A strong silver (David Ramos/Getty Images)

How did they do in Tallinn? Excellent. Seguin/Bilodeau were undefeated on the junior circuit this year and would have been heavy favorites if not for Yu/Jin’s unexpected return. Even so, they skated very well in Tallinn and put up a much stronger challenge to Yu/Jin than I think many expected. I was really impressed with them at this competition (more so than at Canadians). They skated with great energy and confidence. I love the security and depth of edge in their skating. They seem exceptionally comfortable together on the ice, too–unusual for such a young pair.

Are they ready for the next level? Yes, as they proved by winning bronze at senior Canadian Nationals. Their throw jumps and SBS jumps are strong and consistent. Their triple twist isn’t the best, but they have it and will get base value for it, if not much more. It’s being graded as a level 4, quite impressive for such a young team.

I think Seguin/Bilodeau’s biggest strengths right now are their skating skills and connection. I love how they really get into the ice and generate lots of speed. It will be interesting to see how they fit into the mix at senior Worlds. For next season, I think they’ll want to work on upgrading their transitions. There’s a lot of stroking/crossovers in their LP, and their PCS scores in Tallinn reflected this. They were above 7.0 in every mark except transitions, for which they got 6.86.

Fedorova/Miroshkin

What to do about those side-by-side jumps?
What to do about those side-by-side jumps?

How did they do in Tallinn? Just okay. Although they won bronze, they finished over 20 points behind the leaders and had errors in both programs.

Are they ready for the next level? Yes . . . except for SBS jumps. Fedorova/Miroshkin have that classic Russian pairs look in their favor (emphasized by their Russian folk dance LP this season), and their pairs elements are good. Their triple twist is excellent, with great height and an amazing cantilever entrance. It was the highest-scoring element in this competition and is fully senior-ready. Their lifts are nice too, with beautiful positions from Lina. However, their SBS jumps are not good; Lina fell on both sets in the LP and they earned only 1.84 points total for their SBSs. Also, their basic skating skills are fine but not as strong as, say, Seguin/Bilodeau or Fields/Stevens. It may prove quite difficult for Fedorova/Miroshkin to gain traction in the deep, crowded Russian seniors pairs field.

Gubanova/Sintsov

They have the big elements--but not much else yet
Gubanova/Sintsov have the big elements–but not much else yet

How did they do in Tallinn? Not bad. They had a strong short program. This team has a triple twist and very good lifts. Aside from that, their skating is unexceptional.

Are they ready for the next level? They will presumably stay in juniors next year. They are the only team in the top 6 that is not aging out of juniors.

Fields/Stevens

So much progress in such a short time  (Jay Adeff)
So much progress in such a short time (Jay Adeff)

How did they do in Tallinn? I thought Caitlin/Ernie did great, especially considering it was only their second international event. Caitlin/Ernie didn’t even pair up until last summer, so they did not compete on the Junior Grand Prix this year. Coming into this event with no international reputation, they got hit hard in the SP when Caitlin singled the 2Lz. However, they came back very strong in the LP to place 4th in that segment and 5th overall. Their PCS was good in both segments, especially in the LP. Caitlin/Ernie also successfully landed 2 new technical elements in this event: Triple twist and throw triple Salchow.

Are they ready for the next level? Good question! In terms of presentation/PCS, Caitlin/Ernie are definitely ready. They already look like a senior pair on the ice. They skate with great confidence and attack and are very polished for a new pair. Ernie has terrific line and musicality; Caitlin has wonderful carriage and a beautiful arch through her back. Plus, they have great skating skills–I love their strong, deep edges. At times, their unison gets a bit off. But that’s to be expected with a new team.

The technical elements will be the big issue for Caitlin/Ernie heading into seniors. I was so happy to see them land the triple twist here, but obviously this element is a work in progress. The throw 3Lp and throw 3S look great, so I’m not worried about the throw jumps. Their lifts are fine so far. The real hurdle is the SBS jumps. Right now SBS 2Lz is their hardest jump, so they’ll need to upgrade to a SBS 2A or triple jump, plus add another triple. Hopefully this will be doable, because they have so much potential otherwise.

I suspect it will be a very busy offseason for Fields/Stevens.

Koga/Boudreau-Audet

Japan's promising new pair
Japan’s promising new pair

How did they do in Tallinn? Perhaps better than expected. Koga/Boudreau-Audet skated two decent programs to place 6th in both segments and overall. They have a nice look on the ice.

Are they ready for the next level? Yes, I think so. With only one real senior pair in Japan currently (Takahashi/Kihara), K/BA should have no problem making the national podium/team and getting some international opportunities. They have all the necessary senior elements, except for a SBS 2A or second SBS triple jump. Their triple twist here received only level 1 and all negative GOE, but I’m sure they’ll work on that. Throws and lifts look okay. In terms of presentation, they have nice line and decent programs, but need more presence on the ice.

Wrap-up

It was surprisingly fun watching the junior pairs! Somehow, I have a feeling I’ll be tuning in again next season. 🙂 The top contenders next year may include not only Gubanova/Sintsov, but also the young American pair Liu/Johnson, who had a strong short program here and placed 7th overall.

Stars on Ice 2015

Last night, I had so much fun seeing Stars on Ice in Providence, RI! It’s a terrific show this year–well worth the ticket price. I’ll just share some thoughts and impressions from last night.

The theme of this year’s Stars on Ice is “Dancing for Joy.” And indeed, the whole show really has a celebratory, joyful feel. Meryl Davis & Charlie White are very much the stars, and the show is like a continuing celebration of their Olympic gold medal. The lighting by Gary J. Wilson is so well done; each skater is perfectly spotlighted, so you never miss a single movement. And the mood lighting for each piece is gorgeously colored. The costumes by Jef Billings are, as always, stunning.

Jeff Buttle choreographed all the group numbers for the show, and they are terrific. The opening number to “Rhapsody in Blue” was especially striking and dramatic. A great start to the show. At the end of Act I, there’s a cool tango group number to “St. Louis Blues” with Meryl & Charlie, Tanith & Ben– and, unexpectedly, Katia Gordeeva & Patrick Chan as the third couple. Patrick partners Katia in several group numbers, and I thought he did a good job! I’m always fascinated to see Katia doing partnered skating again. The group numbers as a whole were most enjoyable. There’s also a funny one that portrays Tanith Belbin being torn between Charlie and Ryan Bradley. Of course there was a big laugh from the crowd when she chose Charlie!

Tanith chooses Charlie!
Surprise–Tanith chooses Charlie!

Each skater/team performed 2 solo numbers, which I liked. In past editions of Stars, some skaters only had 1 number, and I always felt a bit cheated by that. This year, you get to see 2 different sides of each skater/team.

Meryl & Charlie’s first number is “Say Something,” which they performed earlier this season on the Shall We Dance TV special. Lovely. Their second number is a soft, lyrical piece to Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty.” This was gorgeous too, and reminiscent of some of their classical competitive programs. They performed several of their signature, exquisite lifts.

It was such fun to see Tanith & Ben in the show. I’ve missed this team! They are such great performers and were 100% on for this show. Their first number was the fun piece “Boogie Shoes,” which I believe they performed on Shall We Dance. Their second number was to Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years”: very romantic and sincere, with great flow throughout. (And a beautiful white costume on Tanith.) Technically, I felt Tanith & Ben looked smoother and more polished here than in Shall We Dance. Their lifts were performed with more ease. They included their signature lift, with Tanith in split position.

Tanith
Tanith strikes a pose in the “St. Louis Blues” tango group number

Evan Lysacek skated 2 quite different numbers. The first was to Hozier’s popular song “Take Me to Church.” Evan’s black tank top costume was, I’m sure, appreciated by many audience members. 🙂 His second program was to “Black Swan.” I liked this number best; it reminded me of Evan’s dramatic competition programs, and he skated it with conviction. I think Evan performed only one triple. Most of his jumps were doubles. No doubt he’s still recovering from his hip injuries the last few years. 😦

This was my first time seeing Patrick Chan live. All I can say is, Wow! His skating skills are even more impressive in person than on TV. He simply sails around the ice, beautifully fast, and with such firm, gorgeous edges. It’s a joy just watching him transition from one edge to the next. I love the way he really holds his edges, too, and lets them ride. These days, skaters are doing so many difficult turns, and yet often they don’t stop to really show off the edges. Patrick does, and it’s a sight to see. I found his first Beatles number especially good. It’s set to two songs from the Beatles’ White Album—“Blackbird” and “Dear Prudence”–and I love that Patrick chose these songs, which are not used as often as “A Day in the Life” and some of the better-known Beatles music. Always nice to see interesting, unconventional music choices, and I loved the choreography, too. Patrick’s second number, also very good, was the exhibition piece he did at the Olympics to Tony Bennett’s “Steppin’ Out.” He seems to have a lot of fun with this number.

Patrick performs "Steppin' Out"
Patrick performs “Steppin’ Out”

Patrick performed several triples in his programs. However, having seen Patrick here, I have to say I wish he’d stay in shows and not come back to competition. His skating is so purely enjoyable to watch, just on its own, that it seems almost a shame to muck it up with quads and triples and competition pressure. Like Kurt Browning, Patrick’s amazing gifts seem perhaps best suited to shows. (Although I’m sure Canadian fans probably feel differently.)

Another Canadian skater in this show with incredible skating skills: Joannie Rochette. I was really so, so impressed here with Joannie! She is beautiful to watch and such a complete skater, too. She really has everything. Her effortless speed almost rivals Patrick’s. She makes difficult footwork look exceptionally easy and sure. And she has such fluidity through her lovely arms and back. I found her simply stunning to watch. Her first number to Avicii’s “Addicted to You” was quite sexy! It included a triple toe and triple Salchow. I preferred, though, her second program to “La Vie en Rose”–it was fluid and expressive and everything you want skating to be. There was at least one triple toe in this program, too.

Also beautiful, of course, was Katia Gordeeva. Her first number to “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables was lovely and so poignant. Although it’s been 20 years, the plaintive lyrics about a past love (“I dreamed a dream in time gone by/When the hope was high and life worth living”) can’t help but make you think of Katia & Sergei. This number definitely pulled at the heartstrings. Her second program to “Sentimientos” was intense and had a tango-type feel. It’s interesting how Katia can be so captivating with just footwork and spirals! There is such musicality to everything she does. I was impressed, too, to see her do two strong double Axels in her programs! Very nice.

Katia: As beautiful as ever
Katia: As beautiful as ever

Kimmie Meissner is also in the show and skated her first number to Sia’s “Chandelier.” I liked this program; it had some interesting choreography. This is a hard song to skate to, but Kimmie did pretty well with it. She wore a fluffy pink ballerina-type dress–an interesting counterpoint to the strong vocals. She did a double Axel and triple toe in both of her programs. Kimmie’s second number to “Experience” was not as successful. This program closes with a sequence of spirals and glides, but Kimmie’s edges were not steady, and she looked shaky on this element. Overall, Kimmie was much stronger here than last fall at Evening with Champions. However, she still could use more speed in her skating.

Sinead & John Kerr opened their show with a moving piece to Jay Brannan’s “Zombie.” This non-romantic song works well for them as a sibling team, and they skated it with a lot of emotion. They also performed their “I Will Wait” number, which was well-received by the crowd (as at the New Hampshire show I attended a couple weeks ago.) I do love the energy Sinead & John have on the ice. They just throw themselves into the programs and don’t hold back.

Ryan Bradley skated two nice numbers also. His first was a rousing rendition of “I Lived” by One Republic. In both programs, he performed a couple of triples and his backflip. I really loved his second number to “Mister Cellophane” from Chicago. It was amusing and clever and fun. Ryan does so well with these comedic numbers. His footwork and skating skills are not as strong as, say, Patrick’s. But he has a musicality and expressive ability that is quite enjoyable to watch.

All in all, it was a great show. I highly recommend it to anyone who gets the opportunity to go!!

Will Stolbova/Klimov’s Decision to Skip Worlds Pay Off?

The biggest news in pairs the last couple weeks was definitely Stolbova/Klimov’s decision to skip Worlds. This decision was so unexpected that it’s taken me a while to process it.

Stolbova/Klimov’s official reason for skipping Worlds is to start preparing for next season and, ultimately, 2018. When the news first came out, many speculated that S/K might be injured or about to split. However, they’ve since released pictures of themselves in practice and video of them training SBS 3T/3T/2T. So, I’ll assume their stated reason for skipping Worlds is true.

Stolbova/Klimov at last year's Worlds  (Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images AsiaPac)
Stolbova/Klimov at last year’s Worlds (Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Their decision to forgo Worlds is the biggest surprise of this season, for me. Skaters may bypass Worlds in the Olympic year, or if they are injured or taking the whole year off. However, I can’t remember anyone, ever, declining to compete at Worlds because they wanted to “start preparing for next season.” It means dropping out of the most important event of the year so you can start getting ready for—what? Next year’s Worlds? An Olympics that’s still 3 years away?

It seems odd that Stolbova/Klimov would need to skip Worlds to add new elements. Other top teams, such as Duhamel/Radford and Scimeca/Knierim, have recently added huge new technical elements without taking any time off. So, why do Stolbova/Klimov need extra time off?

Their decision, and the possible reasons for it, have been discussed in great detail on skating forums. So, rather than add to the debate about why it happened, I’ll just look at the potential benefits and risks of the decision.

First, the benefits. In a best-case scenario, Stolbova/Klimov will:

  • Upgrade their SBS jumps and get a quad throw
  • Have 9 months to rest, regroup, and mentally recharge for next season
  • Develop 2 great programs
  • Start next season with a big upgrade in base value and possibly PCS as well

Now, the risks. In a worst-case scenario:

  • Stolbova/Klimov fail to add upgraded elements and/or cannot perform them consistently
  • S/K’s new programs are no better than this year’s programs
  • S/K do not get either a big BV or PCS bump next year
  • Their absence at Worlds allows other teams to shine, win medals, and gain momentum

It’s the last point I find most worrisome. Stolbova/Klimov are facing a number of rivals, not only internationally but domestically. Handing the spotlight to their competitors and a free pass to shine on the World stage is a very risky move, in my opinion.

Let’s imagine, for example, that Duhamel/Radford win Worlds with two dominating performances. They would probably enter next season with a PCS/GOE boost (partially negating any improvements S/K might make). And, what if D/R added yet another difficult element—for example, a throw 3 Axel? Or maybe their own set of SBS 3T/3T/2Ts? In that case, Stolbova/Klimov could still wind up behind them in BV and PCS.

Of equal concern is the ascent of domestic rivals. If Kavaguti/Smirnov win Worlds, they would become Russian #1–at least temporarily–and get a PCS bump next season. I think a bigger threat, though, is Tarasova/Morozov. What if T/M were to skate really well at Worlds, place top 5, get the quad twist or other new elements, and also get improved programs? They could quickly become major rivals to S/K.

Russian rivals
Russian rivals

And, in fact, both of these situations (K/S winning Worlds, T/M placing very well) could happen at the same time. In which case, Stolbova/Klimov might find themselves fighting just to make the World team they declined to join this year. (And that’s not even getting into what would happen if Volosozhar/Trankov come back!!)

We also can’t forget the Chinese pairs, who are on the rise and getting better every season. Sui/Han and Peng/Zhang have the quad twist and could very possibly get a consistent quad throw by next season. And, if one of these teams medaled in Shanghai, that would give them an additional boost.

Meanwhile, what are the chances Stolbova/Klimov will be successful in upgrading their elements and/or improving artistically over their (extended) offseason?

If you look at Stolbova/Klimov’s old programs, you’ll see that they’ve been competing the same jump elements since at least 2010: SBS 3T (SP), SBS 3T/2T/2T (LP), SBS 2A, throw 3F, throw 3S. Those were the elements they showed in their senior GP debut at Skate America 2010, and they competed those same elements this season. So, adding new technical elements is not exactly something they’ve been doing every year.

What Stolbova/Klimov did add between 2010 and 2014 was the triple twist. When they started seniors in 2010, they were doing only double twist. Not unusual. But, interestingly, they were still not consistently doing a triple twist as recently as last fall. (See their Skate America 2013 SP.) The fact that it took them so long to add triple twist—basically, a required element for top pairs–is interesting. It doesn’t necessarily mean it would take them that long to add other new elements. However, it’s a point worth noting. (Meanwhile Tarasova/Morozov, in their first senior season, already have one of the best triple twists in the field.)

Stolbova/Klimov's triple twist: A fairly new element
Stolbova/Klimov’s triple twist (Jamie McDonald/Getty Images Europe)

Stolbova/Klimov are known for their SBS jumping skills. Although they don’t do the hardest jumps, their SBSs are probably the most consistent in the world and high-quality, too. Ksenia and Fedor competed in singles until they were 14/16 respectively, so they should have at least some experience with the harder triples. I think their best bet for adding base value is in the SBS jumps. They’re practicing SBS 3T/3T/2T; if they get it consistent and add it to the LP, it should increase their base value by almost 3 points.

Then, if S/K added a 2A/2A sequence like Yu/Jin, that would be another 2 points. The 2A/2A sequence seems like it should be very achievable, considering how good their 2As are. If they have any comfort level with 3F or 3Lz, Stolbova/Klimov could also try that. The advantage is they could use 3F or 3Lz as their solo jump in the short program (where they can’t use the 2A/2A). However, this might be more of a stretch than adding 3T/3T/2T or 2A/2A, as it would involve a completely different jump. Whatever layout they choose, I feel good about the odds of Stolbova/Klimov upgrading their SBS jumps. My guess is they can, and will, make this happen.

Upgrading their throw jumps is another question. Stolbova/Klimov’s throws score well and were very consistent in 2014. However, S/K’s throw jumps are notable mostly for their fast rotational speed, rather than height or distance. I really have no idea whether they can upgrade to a quad. They don’t have the extra “hang time” in the air that, say, Castelli/Shnapir did on their throw 3S, or some of the Chinese pairs, or Scimeca/Knierim. On the other hand, they have more control than Castelli/Shnapir. It will be interesting to see whether they can get the quad throw or not. Hard to guess the odds—maybe 70/30? 60/40?

Is a quad throw possible?
Is a quad throw possible?

A third area where Stolbova/Klimov can pick up more points is artistry (PCS). This season, Stolbova/Klimov scored well in PCS. But at the GP Final, they did not get the PCS advantage over Duhamel/Radford that many expected. I think much of this was due to program selection.

Stolbova/Klimov are wonderfully skilled skaters, with great unison, line, sharpness, and power. However, as a pair, they lack the lyric, romantic quality associated with many great Russian pairs. Their interpersonal dynamic often feels tense and wary, rather than passionate and emotional. As a result, their natural style is edgy, modern, fast-paced, electric, sometimes comic. This season’s Notre Dame de Paris program was a very unfortunate choice because it didn’t play to any of their strengths. Romantic melodrama is not their thing. Instead of being passionate, the Notre Dame program just looked mechanical and cold. And the Crouching Tiger SP was DOA; too similar to the previous year’s SP (and not as good).

If you review Stolbova/Klimov’s senior programs, the most successful have cleverly highlighted their best qualities. The 2010-11 Asturias flamenco SP showed off their speed and precision; the 2010-11 La Strada LP let them be amusing and picaresque; the 2012-13 Interview with the Vampire SP brilliantly drew on the inherent tension between them; the 2013-14 Surrender SP again showcased their speed and dynamism. And, of course, their best-known Addams Family LP highlights their sharp timing and comic ability.

Their Interview with the Vampire SP: An interestingly antagonistic program
Their Interview with the Vampire SP: An interestingly antagonistic program

I think Stolbova/Klimov just need to return to music and choreography that show off their strengths. If they do that, I think they’ll again be wowing crowds and getting the PCS they want. The issue is whether Nikolai Morozov, their current choreographer, can deliver the material they need. Not known for his innovative choices, I question whether Morozov can get the job done. I guess we’ll have to hope that Nina Mozer and Stolbova/Klimov will demand some of his best work.

All in all, I believe Stolbova/Klimov will succeed in upgrading their SBS jumps and probably their programs. Their throw jumps are a bit more iffy. Still, I think their chance of success is fairly high. They will probably meet their goal of improving their base value and PCS by next season.

However, the trouble is, I feel quite certain that a lot of other teams will also get new elements and/or significantly improve over the offseason. Several rising teams have shown improvement already within this season (especially Tarasova/Morozov, Yu/Jin, Scimeca/Knierim, and Astakhova/Rogonov). These teams are starting to knock at the door, and I think it’s very possible their development could accelerate over the offseason. There’s other talented teams out there, too. So even if Stolbova/Klimov use their extra time well, I’m not sure it will be enough to bring them even with Duhamel/Radford or keep ahead of other rivals. Meanwhile, they are likely sacrificing a World medal.

So the question still remains: In the end, will it have been worth it for Stolbova/Klimov to skip Worlds to prepare for the future? My guess is: No. Only time will tell for sure, though.

A Community Ice Show: Champions on Ice

Last Saturday, I had a lot of fun attending a small-scale community ice show: “Champions on Ice” at Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Duck Pond in Portsmouth, NH.

Puddle Duck Pond is a small outdoor rink in the historic Strawberry Banke section of Portsmouth. The rink is new this season and is intended as a gathering place for the community to come together, skate, and generally celebrate New England’s wintry weather. (As opposed to complaining about it!) The little rink is only about a 5-minute walk from Portsmouth’s downtown area.

A unique setting for the show
A unique setting for the show

“Champions on Ice” celebrated the rink’s first year. The short 30-minute show drew a crowd of perhaps 200 people, who stood at the fence around the rink and sat on high snowbanks to watch the event. Doug Webster, of Ice Dance International, directed and produced the show.

Some pretty big stars appeared: Christina Gao, Ross Miner, Ryan Bradley, Sinead & John Kerr, and Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre. Two young local skaters, Philip Baker and Stella Evindar, performed solo numbers. Also included in the cast were Eric Flaim, speed skating Olympic silver medalist; Grant Marshall, former New Jersey Devils hockey player; and a couple of local skaters who participated in group numbers.

The show opened with a nice group number called “A Hymn to New England,” composed by John Williams and performed by the Boston Pops. Very well-suited to the setting.

Ross Miner then skated a fun program to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” This number is vintage Ross—simple, classic, all-American. He skated it with his usual great stretch and speed. There was a crowd-pleasing cantilever move, some great spins, and at least one triple.

Ross's cantilever move
Ross’s cantilever move

Next up were Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre, skating to “How You Like Me Now” by Tony Lucca. Kim was wearing a sleeveless, skimpy costume in the 35-degree weather—but did she let this hold her back? No way. She and Brent skated the program full out, with great expression. This was my second time this season seeing Kim & Brent, and I’m so impressed with them as performers. They skate with great energy and engagement. It’s really a pleasure to watch them.

A gorgeous lift from Kim & Brent
A gorgeous lift from Kim & Brent

Christina Gao appeared next, skating her lyrical “River” SP to music by Emeli Sande. This program was so lovely to watch in person. Just pure, beautiful skating. Christina performed double jumps only, instead of triples, but it was still gorgeous. I took a video of the program with my phone; unfortunately, it’s not very good quality. (I didn’t realize you should shoot horizontally, not vertically!!) But here it is, for those interested. Christina wore her hair down in a long, flowing style for the show. She is beautiful in person, even more so than on TV.

Christina performs in the finale
Christina performs in the finale

Local skater Philip Baker performed to “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” by Michael Buble. It was a charming, entertaining, retro number from the 12-year-old.

Sinead & John Kerr then put out an exciting, fun performance to “I Will Wait” by Mumford & Sons. They included several of their trademark lifts, in which Sinead holds up John, plus many other cool moves. Sinead wore a striking maroon lace dress, while John was in black. Sinead is quite glamorous in person! She & John got the biggest applause of the show from the audience. “That was awesome” and “Super-cool” were some of the comments I heard in the audience.

Sinead & John Kerr skate to Mumford & Sons
Sinead & John Kerr skate to Mumford & Sons

The next number was from 7-year-old Stella Evindar. She skated to “Walk Like an Egyptian” and was very cute. The crowd loved her, of course!

Ryan Bradley ended the solo performances with his moving program to Sting’s “Fragile.” He did his backflip and at least one triple, but kept the focus mostly on the lyrical, mournful music. I love Ryan’s costume for this number—a simple, but elegant, white shirt and black pants. It suits the restrained music perfectly.

Ryan's introspective performance of "Fragile"
Ryan’s introspective performance of “Fragile”

The show ended with a fun group finale to Gloria Estefan’s Congo. The ladies all changed into gorgeous Latin costumes for this number—lots of fringe and sequins!

The ice dancers in the finale
The ice dancers in the finale

I really enjoyed the show, especially the experience of seeing it in such an interesting venue. It’s rare to see skaters perform on outdoor ice these days, so that alone was special. And I loved the intimate, community atmosphere. The show had an informal, accessible feel that was really cool. It was great to be able to just stand rinkside and watch the skaters so close and in natural light. A public skating session started on the rink right after the show!

Afterward, there was a meet & greet. I was able to get some pictures with the skaters! 🙂

I met Christina!
I met Christina!
Local skater Philip Baker, Ryan, and Ross
Local skater Philip Baker, Ryan, and Ross
John was so nice and asked if I'd like a picture with him & Sinead!
John was so nice and asked if I’d like a picture with him & Sinead!
Kim & Brent
Kim & Brent

I also had the pleasure of meeting Doug Webster, director of the show. Doug talked a bit about his new venture, Ice Dance International, which recently launched with a party at Dick Button’s home in New York. Doug said that eventually, Ice Dance International hopes to produce full-length skating shows—for example, West Side Story on Ice. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Doug Webster (center) at the Ice Dance International launch party at Dick Button's home
Doug Webster (center) at the Ice Dance International launch party at Dick Button’s home

Altogether, it was a great afternoon seeing this community ice show at Puddle Duck Pond. I hope they do more of these shows next year! To see some professional-quality pictures of the show, click here.

Why Pairs?

When I started this blog, I had the intent to focus it partly on pairs skating. So I jumped right in and started writing reviews of pairs events last fall. Recently, it occurred to me that some people might be wondering: Why pairs? Why write so much about pairs?

Well, I started writing about pairs because it’s my favorite discipline of figure skating. I love watching all four disciplines, but pairs has been my favorite for quite a few years now. So, writing about it came naturally.

Why do I love pairs? I think it starts with speed. Going fast is what I love most about skating! I love stepping onto the ice and being liberated from the constraints of earthboundness. Instantly, you can move and glide at twice the speed you could ever achieve walking. The speed is exciting, exhilarating, like nothing else.

In pairs skating, that speed is multiplied. When you have two bodies connected on the ice, the speed and momentum they gain together is greater than a singles skater can achieve. Ice dance also involves two people skating together; but in dance, the speed is controlled and harnessed in the service of exacting, complicated patterns and footwork. In pairs, all that speed and power is unleashed fully to fuel the high-flying twists, lifts, and throws that define the discipline. In a SkateGuard interview, Paul Wylie talked about the speed of legendary pairs skater Irina Rodnina: “I watched her skate at the Broadmoor, and it was two crossovers to full speed and full ice coverage.”

Irina Rodnina/Alexander Zaitsev: Renowned for their speed
Irina Rodnina/Alexander Zaitsev: Renowned for their speed

The first pair I ever saw live was a young team at a local rink in Franklin, Massachusetts. They were probably no older than 10 or 12, and they didn’t have any big lifts or tricks. But, the second I saw them, I was captivated. Because even though they were so young and not very skilled, they took over the rink, racing past the singles skaters at impressive speed and effortlessly grabbing onlookers’ attention. It was fascinating. Watching them, I knew I wanted to see more of this pairs skating!

In the years since then, I’ve watched countless pairs competitions on TV. And I’ve been fortunate to see many famous pairs live, including Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze, Sale/Pelletier, Babilonia/Gardner, Duhamel/Radford, Castelli/Shnapir. But the best moment came last winter in Boston when I attended a full competition for the first time with all-event tickets—2014 U.S. Nationals.

The very first thing I saw at Nationals was senior pairs practice. Wow! That practice took my breath away. To me, it was every bit as exciting as a competition. Watching the pairs teams up close—the amazing things they could do—the speed with which they skated—their reactions after they tried difficult elements and succeeded or failed–was fascinating to me.

U.S. pairs skaters Shaughnessy/Morgan in practice
U.S. pairs skaters Shaughnessy/Morgan in practice

Blair Braverman wrote an in-depth article about 2014 U.S. Nationals for Buzzfeed. She was as captivated by the pairs practices as I was, and wrote eloquently about it:

I’m not planning to stay long at the senior pairs practice, but two hours pass before I can look away.

Four teams — eight skaters — take the ice at a time. They’re all dressed in head-to-toe black, long sleeves and long pants, identical except for the women’s shirts.

Even when they’re all skating separately, when all four pairs have divided and instead eight bodies arc around the ice in a mess of lonely directions, I can see exactly who belongs to whom. The partners’ connection is evident in their rhythms and the angles of their limbs, and when one by one they come together again, it’s almost a relief, things clicking into place. Their bodies are beautiful, made more beautiful by proximity to other bodies, without a trace of sex or romance; each pair seems less an ideal couple than an ideal male and female version of the same human essence.

The pairs practice is, and will remain, the most striking thing I see all week.

You could argue that pairs skating is more exciting than singles skating from a technical standpoint, because not only do pairs perform many of the same spins, jumps, and footwork as singles skaters, they also do the challenging pairs elements too. Of course, pairs skaters don’t usually perform the most difficult solo triple/quad jumps. That said, Duhamel/Radford and Marchei/Hotarek are raising technical standards with their side-by-side triple Lutzes, so who knows what the future will hold?

The thing that I love most about pairs, aside from the speed and sheer beauty of movement, is the artistic potential of the discipline. It seems only logical that you can create a wider range of different movements on ice when you have two bodies to work with, as opposed to one. I find the choreographic potential of pairs and dance far more exciting than singles skating.

So many of the most memorable, iconic programs in the sport are pairs programs. The Protopopovs’ Liebestraum. Underhill/Martini’s When a Man Loves a Woman. Gordeeva/Grinkov’s Moonlight Sonata and Reverie. Mishkuteniok/Dmitriev’s Liebestraum and Rachmaninov. Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze’s Lady Caliph and Meditation from Thais. Sale/Pelletier’s Love Story. Shen/Zhao’s Turandot. Savchenko/Szolkowy’s Pink Panther and Pina. When not performed at a high level, pairs can look prosaic and disjointed. But when pairs skating reaches its fullest potential . . . magic happens.

Gordeeva/Grankov's Moonlight Sonata: An iconic program
Gordeeva/Grankov’s Moonlight Sonata: An iconic program

So, I wanted to write about pairs skating simply because I love it. And also because I feel it doesn’t get as much love (or attention) as the other disciplines. Singles skating is hugely popular, endlessly discussed in forums, and quite well covered in the press and specialized blogs such as Naked Ice. And with the emergence of North American ice dance teams in the last 20 years, ice dance also now has a large following, with its own blogs.

But pairs skating gets a bit lost. So I wanted to show it some love by writing about it here, in this blog. I hope fellow pairs fans have enjoyed the coverage so far, which I aim to continue and improve upon in the future!