Pairs Off-Season News: GP Assignments, Scoring Changes & Program Announcements

It’s June, and the off-season is upon us. Nonetheless, there’s been some interesting pairs news recently following the ISU Council meeting on June 12-13. I thought I’d do a round-up article to discuss the GP assignments, new pairs elements values, and program announcements.

Scoring Changes: New Element Values

Let’s start with the ISU’s new Scale of Values for pairs/singles elements (ISU Communication 1944). This document, released June 15, announced several changes that will affect senior international-level pairs scoring. The following elements have all increased in value:

Element Increase in Base Value
All Group 3, 4, 5 lifts .5
Double twists .1-.2
Triple twists .4
Quad twists, level B-2 .4
Quad twists, level 3-4 .5
Throws: 3A, 4T, 4S, 4Lp .2
Solo (side-by-side) jumps: 3T, 3S .2

What effect will these point-value increases have on pairs skating next season? Well, first off, we should see pairs’ overall competition scores rise by 3-4 points.

However, I’m not expecting major changes in strategy. The point values for lifts, double twists, and triple twists went up across the board, instead of changing relative to each other. So there doesn’t seem to be any advantage in switching out, for example, a Group 5 lasso lift for a Group 5 axel lift. And although the value of throw quad 4T/4S/4Lp increased by .2, this is quite a small change.

The value of a few elements did change in relation to each other, but only slightly. With quad twists, there is now .6 differential between Levels 2/3, whereas before it was .5. In throws, the throw 4F/4Lz now has a little bit less added value relative to the other quad throws (.8 over throw 4S/.3 over throw 4Lp; it was1.0/.5 before). But again, these changes don’t seem significant enough to affect strategy much.

The .2 value increase for solo (SBS) 3T/3S should help pairs who don’t have higher-level triples in the LP, particularly if they can manage a 3T/3T combo, thereby maximizing the value increase. However, in the SP, the value change in the 3T/3S seems unlikely to shift strategy or advantage. Although 3T/3S are now worth more, they are still worth 1.7/1.6 points less than 3Lz. Therefore, the strategic advantage that Duhamel/Radford (or other pairs with higher-level solo triples) have in the SP will remain.

Perhaps what the ISU didn’t do with these value changes is more interesting that what they did. Last season, we of course saw a big trend toward adding quad twists and throws. This occurred despite the fact that quad elements in pairs skating are arguably, if anything, undervalued. For example, a solo quad Salchow in singles skating is worth 10.5 points, whereas a throw quad Salchow in pairs is worth only 8.2 points. I think many people were waiting to see if the ISU would encourage the quad trend by adding a lot more relative value to quad twists and throws. However, they did not do so. Nothing was done to significantly increase the advantage of trying quad elements.

No new incentive for quads  (Jay Adeff)
No big new incentive for quads (Jay Adeff)

If anything, the ISU seemed to send the opposite message. By increasing the value of lifts and twists across the board, the ISU appears to be saying they want pairs skaters to remain well balanced in their skills and not become overly focused on jumping. That’s the conclusion I come away with, anyhow.

I wish that the ISU would issue an explanatory document to accompany scale of values changes. Why not explain the intent behind value-change decisions? This would be a nice step toward greater transparency and communication. When businesses and governments make policy or operational changes, they typically provide at least some rationale for these changes to employees/citizens. Why can’t the ISU Technical Committee do the same?

Grand Prix Assignments: The Good, the Bad, and the Mediocre

Moving on, let’s take a look at the Grand Prix assignments for pairs! Last week Gracie Gold tweeted: “It always feels like Christmas morning when Grand Prix assignments are announced.” I agree with her! It’s always exciting to see the Grand Prix lineups and who’s going to be skating where. It makes the new season feel closer, and you can start to imagine what the competitions will be like.

This year in pairs, the GP lineups look most impressive. With the planned return of Olympic champions Volosozhar/Trankov and the generally rising quality of the field, the GP series in pairs will be highly competitive. It’ll be quite a battle to win medals at each event. And, sad to say, some quite good pairs are going to wind up in last place. (Simply because someone has to finish last, not because they’re not good!)

Rather than review the lineups event by event, I thought I’d evaluate the difficulty level of each pair’s assignments.

Good Draws

I think all the competitions will be tough. Nonetheless, some pairs did emerge with more favorable draws.

The return of the Olympic champions  (Koki Nagahama/Getty Images AsiaPac)
The return of the Olympic champions (Koki Nagahama/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Volosozhar/Trankov: TEB, NHK. V/T will start their season midway through the series at TEB. I think starting later is good; it gives V/T time to get back into competitive shape and catch up from their busy show schedule this spring/summer. V/T will start their comeback at Nebelhorn. Then it’s on to the GP. They will face legitimate but manageable competition at TEB (Peng/Zhang, Tarasova/Morozov) and should win gold there. They elected not to do Rostelecom, which I think is a wise decision, as they will avoid the pressure and publicity in Moscow. V/T next face Duhamel/Radford at NHK, which will be a major test. However, I think it’s probably good for them to meet D/R before the GP Final, so they can see where they stand versus each other and make tweaks. As Olympic champions, V/T will be favored over world champions D/R and should, in any case, do no worse than silver at NHK. V/T have new programs ready (Bollywood SP, Dracula/Van Helsing LP) and landed a gorgeous throw 3Lz at the Denis Ten show in Kazakhstan last week, indicating they are working on upgraded technical content.

Sui/Han:  The featured attraction at Cup of China  (The Canadian Press)
Sui/Han: The featured attraction at Cup of China (The Canadian Press)

Sui/Han: SA, COC. I think Sui/Han drew well with their 2 assignments. They will face Stolbova/Klimov at SA, but do not have to face either D/R or V/T. And with their new status as Chinese #1, they will compete at their home GP for the first time since 2011, which should give them a nice boost. Making the GPF should be a foregone conclusion. Word is that Lori Nichol choreographed Sui/Han’s new programs for this season. It’s their first time working with Nichol.

Stolbova/Klimov:  Ready for a fresh start?
Stolbova/Klimov: Ready for a fresh start?

Stolbova/Klimov: SA, RC. For a team that was not seeded, Stolbova/Klimov certainly lucked out with their assignments. Their matchup with Sui/Han at SA will be tough. And they must compete against Russian rivals Kavaguti/Smirnov at Rostelecom. However, they avoided having to meet either D/R or V/T. The upside: They should have a clear path to the GP Final, unless they’ve seriously fallen off form since last year. The downside: Not meeting their top rivals to see where they stand could make them vulnerable to another disappointing placement at the GPF.

Tarasova/Morozov: SC, TEB. T/M will face Duhamel/Radford at Skate Canada—a big challenge. However, they should be able to beat the rest of the field fairly easily. In France, they will face Volosozhar/Trankov and Peng/Zhang. Since T/M train with V/T, I imagine they’ll be pretty comfortable competing against them and not too nervous. It will be interesting to see if T/M have made a leap forward in their training this summer and can pass P/Z in France. Whether they do so or not will likely determine if they make the GP Final. T/M’s new programs this season have been choreographed by Giuseppe Arena.

Marchei/Hotarek:  Will they win their first Grand Prix medal?  (Ng Han Guan)
Marchei/Hotarek: Will they win their first Grand Prix medal? (Ng Han Guan)

Marchei/Hotarek: SC, RC. Valentina/Ondrej’s draw is favorable. They don’t have a home Grand Prix to help them, like many other pairs, and the field at Rostelecom is tough. However, they will be favored to win bronze at Skate Canada.

Wang/Wang: SA, COC. Wang/Wang were largely forgotten after the Grand Prix last season because they didn’t make the Chinese team for 4CCs or Worlds. However, they won 2 GP medals last year. It will be harder this season, but there’s still quite a big potential for them to medal at one or both of their events. I wish Wang/Wang would do some senior B events this fall, just to kind of remind everyone that they still exist and are really good. The Chinese pairs teams typically don’t do senior Bs, so this probably won’t happen, but I think it would help them. Their programs this season are reportedly from David Wilson.

Castelli/Tran at a Rhode Island event
Castelli/Tran at a Rhode Island event

Castelli/Tran: SC, TEB. I think Mervissa did well with this draw. 🙂 Skate Canada is a great place for them to start their season. Minimal travel and less pressure than Skate America, but they should still have audience support. Plus, it’s probably the weakest field in the series. Next, they compete in France against V/T, T/M, and P/Z, which will be daunting. But if everything comes together, I could see C/T possibly challenging for as high as fourth in one or both events. Of course with C/T being such a new pair, and this being their first full competitive season, there’s also the distinct possibility that they could suffer from nerves and place lower. But I’m going to think optimistically. 🙂 C/T are keeping their “Summertime” SP from last season and, as documented in IceNetwork’s series, have developed a new Journey LP with Julie Marcotte. Early practice clips look promising, and they will start competition early at Skate Detroit in late July. I hope that C/T will do at least one Senior B before the GP. Getting more competitive experience together is important.

Challenging Draws

A number of seeded teams with high rankings nonetheless drew somewhat difficult or challenging events. Also, some lower-ranked teams in this group also face a tough draw.

Duhamel/Radford: SC, NHK. You have to think Meagan/Eric are probably less than thrilled with their draw. As reigning World champions, they had every reason to expect 2 easily manageable GP fields and victories this fall. Instead, they find themselves facing Olympic champions Volosozhar/Trankov at NHK. Like it or not, they will be perceived as underdogs to V/T in Japan (unless V/T bomb in France), and that’s not going to feel good. Their new programs are again from Julie Marcotte. They may also unveil their new mystery element: Perhaps the throw 4Lz they landed on the SOI tour?

Peng/Zhang:  Time to step it up a notch
Peng/Zhang: Time to step it up a notch

Peng/Zhang: TEB, RC. Peng/Zhang’s draw is not ideal. The last 2 years, they benefited from competing at their home Grand Prix. However, this season they lost that spot to Sui/Han. They will start in France, where they must face V/T and T/M. Then they have Rostelecom the next week, where they will meet Stolbova/Klimov and Kavaguti/Smirnov. Doing back-to-back GP events is tough. However, at least the 2 events are relatively close together. Now in the fourth year of their partnership, I feel this season is important for Peng/Zhang. They’ve been 5th and 4th at Worlds the last 2 years, and it’s time to take that next step. They should win 2 silvers and progress fairly easily to the GP Final. However, they need to open strongly at TEB. Last year they were somewhat tentative in their first GP event and won bronze, and they just can’t afford that this season. Lori Nichol has once again choreographed their programs. The LP is to The Pearl Fishers by Bizet; their SP is reportedly a tango version of the Beatles’ “Come Together.”

Kavaguti/Smirnov: COC, RC. Yuko/Sasha’s path to the GP Final looks a bit challenging. They start in China, where they must face three strong Chinese pairs. Then it’s on to Rostelecom and a matchup versus Stolbova/Klimov, with P/Z also in the mix. They may find themselves on the bubble for the GP Final. Their new programs will again be choreographed by Peter Tcherynshev. (Let’s hope for more brilliance from Peter!)

Scimeca/Knierim: SA, NHK. Alexa/Chris got a draw that’s difficult but presents a great opportunity to prove they can compete with the best. At SA, they will face Sui/Han and Stolbova/Klimov. At NHK, it’s V/T and D/R, plus Y/J. The difficulty of their draw makes it somewhat unlikely they’ll qualify for the GP Final. However, Alexa & Chris can make a big statement if they lay down strong performances and win bronze at both GPs, and I’m sure that’s what they will aim for. Winning their first GP medal(s), and doing so against such tough competition, would be a big statement and position them well for 4CCs/Worlds, even if they don’t make the GPF. I do believe it’s possible for them to medal at both events, although it’s certainly not going to be easy. Their new programs—Metallica SP, Elizabeth: The Golden Age LP–were choreographed by Julie Marcotte.

Yu/Jin: COC, NHK. Yu/Jin are doing the same GPs as last season. With both events in Asia, travel will be minimal. Competing in their home GP gives them a nice boost, and they will likely medal at COC. The NHK field is very tough, however. Yu/Jin may pull out a bronze at NHK and could be a dark horse to again make the GP Final. David Wilson, who choreographed their very successful programs last season, will again create this year’s programs.

James/Cipres: TEB, NHK. Vanessa/Morgan will face Volosozhar/Trankov in both events, Duhamel/Radford in the second, and any number of other good pairs as well. This will not be helpful as they seek to rebound from a disappointing season last year. The chance of medaling in either event is slim.

Iliuschechkina/Moscovitch:  A busy GP season  (Xiaolu Chu)
Iliuschechkina/Moscovitch: It will be a busy 3 weeks (Xiaolu Chu)

Iliushechkina/Moscovitch: COC, NHK. I’m thrilled that Luba/Dylan got 2 GPs (not a given, since they finished 13th at Worlds). However, the 2 events they drew are challenging. Both are in Asia and are 3 weeks apart. So they either face 2 long trips to/from the events or a 3-week stay in Asia. Not only that, the fields are very competitive, especially at NHK, and medaling is a long shot. Hopefully Luba/Dylan can just look at this as a valuable opportunity to get more competitive experience together. Like Castelli/Tran, Luba/Dylan will start their season early at Skate Detroit.

Neutral/As Expected Draws

Teams who didn’t make Worlds or were toward the lower half of the field at Worlds have to expect draws that are probably less than ideal, but hopefully not too bad. I’d say the following teams are in this category.

Seguin/Bilodeau: SA, TEB. Julianne/Charlie’s draw really isn’t bad. Skate America is close to their training base in Quebec, and they’ll no doubt enjoy a trip to France! It will be good for them to get the experience of competing against Volosozhar/Trankov in France.

Astakhova/Rogonov:  Hoping to show consistency  & improvement this season  (Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images Europe)
Astakhova/Rogonov: Hoping to show consistency & improvement (Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images Europe)

Astakhova/Rogonov: SA, COC. Kristina/Alexei’s schedule will be challenging, with a lot of travel. They are facing quite a tough field at COC, especially. They debuted their new The Artist SP recently at a competition in Russia; their LP will be portray a puppet master bringing his puppet to life. Sergei Komolov, who did their programs last year, also choreographed this year’s programs.

Bazarova/Deputat: SC, NHK. Vera/Andrei will be dealing with quite a bit of travel as well, although at least their events are 4 weeks apart. They should be right in the mix at SC, but face extremely tough competition at NHK. Their new programs were choreographed by Elena Maslennikova.

Moore-Towers/Moscovitch: SC, RC. Starting at their home GP, Skate Canada, should give them a boost.

Kayne/O’Shea: SA, RC. As with MT/M, it’s nice for Kayne/O’Shea to start at their home GP. K/O are fan favorites and will get a warm reception at Skate America.

One-Event Teams and TBDs

Six pairs on the GP have only 1 assignment: Ziegler/Kiefer, Fedorova/Miroshkin, Aaron/Settlage, Della Monica/Guarise, Bell/Swiegers, Calalang/Sidhu. These teams will be looking to make a strong impression and hopefully pick up another event.

There are also 4 open TBD host spots: America, Canada, France, Russia. In America, the contenders are likely Aaron/Settlage, Donlan/Bartholomay, and Fields/Stevens. In Canada, Grenier/Deschamps and Purich/Wolfe (both of whom had GP slots last season) are probably the leading contenders. In Russia, Fedorova/Miroshkin may get the final slot if they perform well at COC.

Looking Ahead: The Grand Prix Final

The competition for the Grand Prix Final will be intense. If I had to make my picks now, I’d go with the following 6 teams: Volosozhar/Trankov, Duhamel/Radford, Sui/Han, Stolbova/Klimov, Peng/Zhang, and Tarasova/Morozov.

But I think there’s any number of other teams who could also make the Final, depending on how the cards play out. And one thing I’m certain of is that we’ll see some surprises and unexpected twists. And, of course, hopefully some great skating!


Maxim Trankov’s Commentary on the Pairs Event at Worlds 2015: Part 3

Here is the final section of Max’s translated commentary from Worlds 2015.

2014 Olympic champion Maxim Trankov
2014 Olympic champion Maxim Trankov

On Marchei/Hotarek’s free skate:

[at the start] “An Italian theme for the Italian pair. La Strada, performed by Valintina Marchei, a singles skater only yesterday, and Ondrej Hotarek.”

[on their SBS triple Lutz jumps] “Triple Lutz. Superb. Even better than…” [The other commentator interrupts with what sounds like “D/R”.] “Yes. Very much in sync, with great amplitude.”

[on their throw triple flip] “Throw triple flip. Also completed without any problems. By the way, the guys [M/H] are training together with Duhamel/Radford under the same coaches–Bruno Marcotte and Richard Gauthier.”

[on the double twist] “It’s a double twist for now. Evidently, the guys are still learning the triple twist. However, this element wasn’t the best for Ondrej even when he was skating with Stefania Berton.”

Marchei/Hotarek:  "It's a double twist for now."  (Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images AsiaPac)
Marchei/Hotarek: “It’s a double twist for now.” (Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images AsiaPac)

[on the SBS spins–the other commentator says that the SBS spins are an indicator of how well the pair is skating together] “Well, it’s generally an indication of pairs skating. In principle, you could put two different pairs skaters together, and they would do the side-by-side spins in unison because they know how to follow the other, how to adjust it. Valentina Marchei still needs to learn this, that’s all. You can still see that she is skating like a single skater.”

[on their SBS jump combination] “That’s a very serious jump combination. Triple Salchow/double toe loop/double toe loop.” [The other commentator says they didn’t do it perfectly.] “But they will get very high marks for this.”

[on their lift–the other commentator asks how Valentina can not be afraid to be lifted like that, as a singles skater] “Well, in reality, Ondrej is a very secure partner. He’s very big, sturdy, and strong, and really you can trust a partner like that. He always had… I think Valentina is the lightest of all his partners with whom he [has] skated.”

[on their throw triple Salchow] “The guys execute their free skate clean. This is really…” [He sounds happy.] “Today, pairs skating is a pleasure [to watch].”

[on the last lift, which they aborted] “And, similarly [to Ilyushechkina/Moscovitch], these guys are left without a lift. Maybe I should say about all my competitors: ‘strong and secure partner.’” [He laughs.] “As soon as I praise someone…” [He means he jinxed them.] “The lasso is the most difficult lift, as far as timing is concerned. It’s not the most valuable of lifts, but you really need to be in tune with each other in order to do the lasso lift.”

[after they finish] “You could see that, after the throw, Valentina skated very carefully. She concentrated very hard on this lasso [lift]. Maybe she tried too hard, so to speak. They were too… I noticed because, prior to that, she was skating very artistically and very well, but just before the lasso, she was suddenly so concentrated.” [The other commentator tries to explain the dangers of the lasso lift.] “There are many nuances to this element, and of course, you need experience. The other question is whether it was worth taking this risk. They could have done another lift with a similar value, but simpler execution.”

[The other commentator asks about their SBS jumps.] “Very serious. If they add a triple twist [and] Valentina adds a little bit of pairs skating [experience], and you will have a serious pair. At Europeans–a serious threat to our Russian pairs.”

[when they walk to the K&C] “I wouldn’t be so upset if I were them. To be in the top 10 at Worlds…” [He clearly didn’t expect A/R to beat them overall.]

[The other commentator compliments their throws.] “Well, I can’t really say that their throws are super-great, because they train in Canada where the throws are small–like jumps—i.e., you can see that Ondrej is simply not getting in the way of her jumping her Lutz. He just steps aside, gives the direction, and Valentina then jumps. It will be interesting to compare her [SBS] triple Lutz with the throw [triple Lutz] and see how much bigger it is. I think there is not much difference.”

[He watches a replay of their throw triple Salchow.] “You see, even on the [throw] Salchow, the distance between them is practically 2 meters, whereas there should be 5 at least. He can almost take her by the hand when she lands.”

[when they sit down in the K&C] “But it’s very serious progress, to learn so much in one year. Valentina did very well!”

On Denney/Frazier’s short program:

[before the start] “They are coached by Ingo Steuer–the coach of our rivals [Savchenko/Szolkowy] and a rival coach of Robin Szolkowy. Two German coaches–one coaching a team from the U.S. and the other a team from Russia.”

[on whether Robin is returning to Germany] “I don’t know. He was only contracted for one season. It’s very expensive to keep foreign technical specialists, and the way things currently are, I don’t know what is going to happen in [the] future. Plus, it’s going to be very difficult for Robin. He is married. His wife Romy is expecting a baby, so he will have to go back in any event. Of course, it’s possible to send someone to him to train for a while.”

The sound on this Youtube video disappears for some reason throughout Denney/Frazier’s program and only reappears after they finish.

Trankov then gives a very long speech about how Haven’s sister Caydee used to compete with John Coughlin and what a great pairs skater John was. Trankov says that Coughlin paid attention to the same things that Trankov himself finds so important in pairs skating–the quality of the pairs elements, interesting lifts, the height of the twist, the height and distance of the throw jumps that wow the audience, the step sequences. He says John Coughlin even spoke at a conference about how those elements should be rewarded. Trankov then speaks very passionately about how important the quality of pairs elements and the quality of overall skating is to him personally and also to other pairs skaters of his generation.

Trankov says that if viewers want to see “real” pairs skating, they should watch Pang/Tong skate in the competition. He says that, with Pang/Tong’s retirement after Worlds, pairs skating will lose the last team from the era of great pairs skaters. And that viewers will never again see anything like the quality of the elements Pang/Tong did. Trankov says he competed against Pang/Tong for many years and learned a lot from them.

In the meantime, he compliments the lifts and throws that Denney/Frazier performed in their SP.

On Denney/Frazier’s free skate:

[at the start] “These guys [D/F] are working with John Zimmermann and Ingo Steuer, who was the coach of the famous pair of Savchenko/Szolkowy, five-time world champions.” [Note: John Zimmerman was actually not coaching D/F at this point; after U.S. Nationals, they switched to Steuer as their full-time coach.]

[on their SBS triple Salchow jumps] “He did a double Salchow.”

Trankov said there were lots of soundtracks used this season, and that this was the soundtrack to The Lion King.

[on their SBS double Axel] “Unfortunately, this pair did not manage with their jump elements. In the first instance, it was he who doubled the [triple] Salchow, and now the double Axel resulted in a fall for her.”

[on their throw triple Salchow] “The throw was very precisely executed. Very well done.”

[on the death spiral] “This year, we see a lot of back outside death spirals. It is not only because it’s the most difficult–and highly valued by the judges–death spiral. But it is also a trick. Next year, the back outside death spiral will be a requirement for the short program, so pairs are trying to include it in their free skates this year to avoid the need to learn a completely new element and new technique over the summer.”

[on their lifts] “This pair has interesting lifts, but there are big question marks regarding their jump elements. I think these guys are going to go down the rankings now, at least in the free skate…”

Denney/Frazier:  "This pair has interesting lifts, but there are big question marks regarding their jump elements."  (Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images AsiaPac)
Denney/Frazier: “This pair has interesting lifts, but there are big question marks regarding their jump elements.” (Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images AsiaPac)

[The other commentator asks if D/F will slide below A/R.] “The question is whether the judges still remember that A/R even exist, because we are now two warmup groups later.” [Trankov goes on to say that D/F should lose a lot of points.] “It is evident that the judges are not helping at all at this event, and that you need to skate clean in order to fight for a place in the sun.”

The other commentator then criticizes the music choice and the costumes. Trankov says you can make a masterpiece out of any music if you try. He adds that Ingo Steuer never tried to “tell a story” in his programs.

On Ilyushechkina/Moscovitch’s free skate:

[on Kirsten/Dylan’s unexpected split] “They were a perfect match. Their personalities were identical, and they got on very well off the ice, and it was evident when they skated. And they had great energy about them.”

[about Luba] “She became Bond’s girl–no more, no less.”

[on their SBS triple toe loop/double too loop jump sequence] “It’s quite a simple combination, I must say. But I’m sure those guys are learning a 3T/3T combination.”

[on their triple twist] “We have yet to see a good twist [at this point in the competition].”

[on their other jumps] “They managed very well with all their jumps. You see what good speed can do. These guys are skating with good speed, and it immediately appears like they are in a class above [the previous pairs].”

[on their first lift] “It’s a very difficult and interesting lift. As we’ve discussed before, it’s a reverse [lift]. Luba is in a very difficult position.”

[on the throw triple Lutz and their overall skating] “There was a touch down with the hand. These guys are skating with feeling. It’s a pleasure to watch.”

[on the transitions] “It worked in their favor that they combined two strong pairs schools–the Canadian and the Russian. This is pairs skating. All those little transitions–a few steps, and suddenly they are in a spiral. It’s all done very well and in sync. All the elements are well skated and of high quality.”

Ilyushechkina/Moscovitch: "This is pairs skating. All those little transitions . . . . It's all done very well and in sync."  (Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images AsiaPac)
Ilyushechkina/Moscovitch: “This is pairs skating. All those little transitions . . . . It’s all done very well and in sync.” (Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images AsiaPac)

[on the lunge lift]
“Compare Lyosha’s [Rogonov’s] lifts to this. This guy [Dylan] covers half the ice and almost does a full circle. I think it will be very difficult for our [i.e., Russian] skaters to compete with this because these guys are really demonstrating strong skating.”

[on the death spiral] “A very difficult entry. But unfortunately, a fall from the death spiral means the guys might be left without an element. I will have to watch the repeat to be able to say for sure. Maybe I jinxed them.”

[on their SBS spins] “They lost unison. But at the end, they exited in sync. That shows their experience.”

[on the end of their program] “At the end, they botched the lift as well. The program fell apart a little at the end. They started very strong, but I think they lost concentration toward the end. They completely botched two elements, and the SBS spins were done very badly. I need to see if they even completed a full circle in the death spiral, otherwise they could be left without a mark for the death spiral. They could get 0 for that, and the lift will most likely get level 1 or even basic level, because there was no more than one rotation. They seriously messed up the end [of the program]. I think I praised these guys too much.” [Note: I/M received no credit for the death spiral and only basic level for the final lift.]

[The other commentator says that Dylan was better with Kirsten.]
“This pair is different, but very interesting. I will be very interested to see them develop. Luba used to have problems with jumps, but she is now landing them very securely. She did so well! The lifts are very interesting. They made mistakes where I didn’t expect it–the death spiral. The requirements for elements change constantly. It is hard to re-learn the technique, and the death spiral is the pain of pairs skating! This pair has a lot of potential. They are very serious athletes, and if they continue working as they did, they could be serious contenders. I already like them better than the top Canadian team. They have better skating skills, that’s for sure.”

[The other commentator says that the Canadian federation doesn’t think they are better than D/R.] “Well, the Canadian federation has its own ideas about figure skating. They never supported Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, and neither the experts nor the fans could understand why.”

Trankov then continues to praise I/M and says they demonstrated “very serious skating” at Worlds.

On Della Monica/Guarise’s short program:

[The other commentator says that everyone can speak Russian, even Della Monica/Guarise.] “Well…yes… they trained with Oleg Vasiliev. But the most interesting thing about this pair is the story of the [male] partner. Many know this, but many don’t. What can you say about Matteo when he skates? [He is] a person who is a world champion in roller skating. There have been many previous Italian pairs guys who came from roller skating, but you could tell that they were roller skaters, no matter how long they skated. But the progress that Matteo has made–landing triple jumps, becoming a figure skater, so to speak–he did very well! He was forced to quit roller skating, as his partner was caught doping [using some hidden, hard-to-detect drugs]. And under the roller skating rules, both partners get disqualified, for life. So Matteo was left without his sport that he had dedicated his whole life to, and had become World Champion in. He was forced to switch to figure skating. But in the end he got to go to the Olympics, which he would not have been able to do as a roller skater.”

[on their skating] “But if we get back to the skating, the guys [DM/G] didn’t skate their best here [in the SP]. Nicole had a mistake on the triple Salchow, and the throw [triple Loop] also had a stepout–quite a serious mistake. So of course, there also won’t be a high technical score.”

Della Monica/Guarise:  "The guys didn't skate their best here."  (Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images AsiaPac)
Della Monica/Guarise: “The guys didn’t skate their best here.” (Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images AsiaPac)

[on the steps that they do in hold] “At the same time, I like this position in the step sequence, I like this type of sequence.”

[The other commentator says Trankov is a fan of choreography.] “I am, yes. I support skating [skills], that figure skating remains as much as possible art on ice and not athletic gymnastics. More rhythmic than athletic gymnastics, so to speak.”

[The other commentator says DM/G didn’t finish with their music.] “Well, this only gets punished if you didn’t manage to finish within your allocated time slot. We are required to skate a minimum of 2mins 30secs, and a maximum of 2mins 50secs. The timer stops when you finish your [last] move. So if they managed to get within that time, then [finishing after the music] doesn’t really play that much of a role, just visually.”

[The other commentator wonders if they will be punished in the second mark.] “Well, if there is a really big discrepancy [with the music], then yes. But sometimes it’s a choreographic idea–like Julia Lipnitskaya in Schindler’s List, when she turns around slowly and looks at the audience. It was all done almost without any music and was part of the choreographic design. If it’s part of the choreographic idea, then it’s justified.”

The other commentator then blames the time difference and jet lag for there being few clean skates in the short program to that point. But Trankov disagrees. He says the time difference is not so bad, that there are many GP events and the World Team Trophy held in Asia, and DM/G should be used to adjusting to the time difference. Plus, Trankov says the schedule for pairs at this event was very good, because China is a “country of pairs skating,” and everything was done to accommodate pairs skating first and foremost. He says that in the past, pairs skating always had a good schedule because it’s a very dangerous discipline, especially for the girl, but that this has now changed and pairs now have to perform in very poor conditions, schedulewise. He laughs that Elena Ilinykh gave an interview to say that they had a poor competition schedule because training was set for 6:30 a.m. Trankov said ice dancers always used to train at 6:30 a.m., but that things have now changed. Then they speak about how awful the schedule was at Europeans.



Maxim Trankov’s Commentary on the Pairs Event at Worlds 2015: Part 2

We continue with the second part of Max’s translated commentary from Worlds 2015.

2014 Olympic champion Maxim Trankov
2014 Olympic champion Maxim Trankov

On Kavaguti/Smirnov’s short program:

Trankov starts off talking about how this World Championship is going to be just a learning experience for the Russian skaters, and that the Russian team should not expect anything. After the “triumph of Sochi,” Trankov says the Russian team should just get experience and gather strength, and allow others to win competitions, because everyone is tired of seeing Russians win.

[on their SBS triple toe loop jumps] “They lost unison a little. But they executed the jump confidently.”

[on the twist] “Not bad. The twist was executed not bad at all.”

[on the throw triple loop] “Very well done. You can tell that these guys are in great shape. After the European Championships, they started believing in themselves, that they really have come back.”

[The other commentator says K/S mustn’t lose concentration, although they are very experienced.] “But look at the European Championships, where they botched the lift suddenly right at the end [of the LP]. It all goes [i.e., the elements], and you have to remember and rework them again. They can’t relax now, [they] need to hold on. But in that sense, Yuko & Sasha are okay. They have an established working relationship, so to speak. These guys have been skating together for so many years, working together for so many years. They sense each other. “

Kavaguti/Smirnov: “These guys have been skating together for so many years … They sense each other.”

[on their step sequence] “The step sequence is in hold, together. This is what is called ‘pairs skating.’ At least half the steps should be done in hold.”

[on the death spiral and that the entry was difficult] “Well, because of Yuko’s injured shoulder, these guys have to do the death spiral with the other arm, which is why it looks a little unusual, because she is holding on with the other arm. And of course, it’s much more difficult, but it appeared like today everything was… not bad.”

[when they finished] “There were tiny mistakes here and there, but they were such that, in the grand scheme of things, no one will notice. They should be the [current] leaders now.”

[The other commentator said he sighed in relief.] “Well, in actual fact, you could have sighed in relief after they executed the throw jump, because the guys managed very well with all their elements. They look happy. It was evident that they skated with pleasure; everything worked for them.”

[The other commentator says Smirnov has a lot of adrenaline in his blood.] “Maybe. Maybe. But he’s been shot before.” [This is a Russian saying, literally translated as a “shot sparrow,” meaning that Smirnov is very experienced.]

[on the repeat of the SBS jumps] “They jumped one after the other somewhat. Yuko landed first, then Sasha.”

[The other commentator says that they don’t have to jump in sync, as long as they land in sync.] “No. They have to do everything in sync. That’s in order to get +3. But they will get +2. It’s not a bad mark, either.” [Note: K/S got mostly +1s for the SBS jumps, with a few +2s.]

[on the repeat of the throw and choreographer Peter Tchernyshev’s reaction] “The throw was great. Peter Tchernyshev works with these guys.”

[The other commentator says that the camera didn’t show K/S’s coach Tamara Moskvina.] “They’re hiding her. Maybe she’s not watching, either, like me.” [He’s referring to himself not being able to watch T/M skate and laughs.]

Then Trankov talks about how happy he is that both the young and older Russian pairs got similar technical marks. He says the younger generation is pushing the older generation.

On Tarasova/Morozov’s free skate:

Trankov was so nervous for, and didn’t want to jinx, Tarasova/Morozov, his training mates, that he turned away and didn’t watch them skate. He could only comment once they had finished skating and he watched the slow-motion repeats.

Tarasova/Morozov:  Trankov's protegees
Tarasova/Morozov: Trankov’s protegees

[at the start] “Zhenya [Evgenia Tarasova] had a big problem with her landing leg. She got a bad pair of boots that were so tight, they injured the nerve of her foot, and at Europeans, she basically skated on one leg. After Europeans, they had to take a 20-day break, during which they didn’t skate at all, to allow her foot to heal. Thereafter, the top of her boot had to be completely restitched. Thus, I’m sure Zhenya had to fight for the landings in the throws. It’s difficult for me to comment, because I want them to do well so badly. We train at the same rink, and I think they are our future. This is a very good showing at their first very serious event, not just to be in the top 10, but [to finish 6th]… I would like repeat that at my first World Championship after moving up from juniors, I came in 12th.”

[about their reverse lift] “This is what is called a difficult variation. We trained this lift with the guys [T/M] for a very long time. I found the position for them, me and Tatiana.”

[about the throw where Tarasova had to fight for the landing]There was no touch down with the free leg.”

[about the throw triple Salchow] “Superb throw Salchow. There is still room for the guys to grow. They are planning to learn the throw flip and possibly the quad twist because their height [of the triple twist] and ability allows it.”

[after T/M’s marks came up] “They almost broke 200. I would like to remind everyone that, in order to make the elite top flight of pairs skating and to fight for top places, you need to be breaking 200. And these guys are very close.”

On Scimeca/Knierim’s short program:

[before the start] “They work with very good specialists. They have had less successful seasons before, but they skated stronger than in this season. This season, from what I could see at competitions, these guys are fighting with jumps. First one, then the other. Something stopped working.”

[on their twist] “The twist is great beyond words. However, it was done from a simple entrance, so they are not going to get high levels for this. They won’t get more than 6-7 points.” [Note: S/K got level 3 for the twist and scored 7.50.]

[about their SBS triple Salchow jumps] “They did it. This season, it’s probably the best they performed this element.”

[about the SBS spins] “They lost unison in the first half. The second half was not bad. It will be difficult for the judges to mark the spins positively because they didn’t exit in unison, either, and the first half was done completely wrong.”

[on their lift] “Very interesting lift. Very beautiful.”

Trankov explains where the other U.S. pairs currently train and used to train.

[on the throw triple flip] “Well done! They did very well with their short program, skating in such a strong group. They held their own. After Tarasova/Morozov, everyone started skating strong. In my estimation, they will be fighting for 5th-6th place among those who have already skated. There are still two teams to skate. They should get about 65 points, as all their elements are very good. Their only big problem are the jump elements, but today they did very well. Maybe the Chinese ice is very good. Those who don’t normally jump started jumping today.” [Note: Scimeca/Knierim earned 65.56 for their SP.]

Scimeca/Knierim: “They did very well with their short program.” (Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images AsiaPac)

[on the repeats] “Have a look at their twist! The difference between their twist and that of other teams is great–it has great height and amplitude. The only thing, the entrance into it is not the most difficult. Their jumps were done very much out of unison. They just did them for the sake of doing them. They didn’t even try to go for good quality.”

He laughs at the reaction of their coach, Dalilah Sappenfield, when they complete “the most important jump element” –the throw. Trankov says that in America, all coach-skater relationships are contractual, and it is common to switch coaches and even switch back by mutual agreement.

On Scimeca/Knierim’s free skate:

Trankov gushed over their incredible quad twist and complimented their interesting lifts, but criticized their jumps and many minor mistakes throughout the program.

[on their scores] “The judges are very loyal to this pair. They [Scimeca/Knierim] often make mistakes but still get higher technical scores than those who skate clean. For example, you can be sure that they will beat the French [James/Cipres] tonight, even though the French skated perfectly. They have been beating the French all season, regardless of their skates. They could fall twice and still beat the French. This shows that the judges and the audience like this pair and that they are U.S. pair no.1.” [He then accurately predicted that they would also beat the Canadians, Seguin/Bilodeau, because of their high-quality quad twist.]


On Seguin/Bilodeau’s free skate:

Trankov talks about the GP selection process for a country’s third-ranked pair team. He then repeats that in order to be considered a top team (not part of the elite, but still one of the top teams), you should make the top 12 at Worlds. Then you can fight for a top 10 place at Worlds, which is “very good by any athlete’s standard”. He repeats that he came in 12th at his first World Championships and says that it wasn’t so bad.

[on the SBS triple Salchow jumps–the other guy says that S/B are also probably fighting for the top 10 and Trankov says:] “Yes… well, for now the jump wasn’t bad. Triple Salchow.”

[on the triple twist] “The triple twist is probably going to be level 2, I think, because there was no catch. You could clearly see that the male partner’s hand slipped from the female partner’s waist and he caught her on his shoulder, so this is probably going to be level 2.” [Note: The twist got level 2.]

[on the lift and their skating] “You can tell that this is still juniorish skating. One of the simplest lifts [was done] in the first part of the program, so… But here we would also have to look at the mark sheets for Kristina and Lyosha [Astakhova//Rogonov] because we don’t know what levels those guys got for their elements.”

[on the SBS spins] “The side-by-side spins were executed very securely. Very much in unison.”

[afterward] “I just wanted to add–for those who are not in the know, those who don’t know… These guys [S/B] competed at Junior Worlds this year a few weeks ago and, in order to compete at the senior championship, they had to change the program. Pairs who compete in the seniors, we require 3 lifts, whereas juniors only have 2 [lifts], and the [senior] program is longer by 30 seconds. That’s why the guys are, in fact, still skating an initial version of the program. So it’s a little harder for them.”

[on their SBS jump combination] “Well, they managed well with their jumps, but A/R had a more difficult jump combination, because this was a double axel/double toe. A/R had a triple toe/double toe/double toe. So those guys [A/R] won the jump part [of the program].”

[on the throw triple Salchow–the other commentator talks about whether or not it is more valuable if jumps are done in the second part of the program, to which Trankov replies:] “And the throws that A/R did were also more difficult [than S/B’s throws]. They did a throw triple loop and a throw triple flip, whereas these guys did a throw triple Salchow–the throw with the least value. So it may be possible to compete on the technical side. And the rest will depend on the judges, on the PCS.”

[on the throw triple toe loop] “Ahhh, they did a throw Salchow and throw toe [loop] as well, so these are the two least valuable throws. Although they were executed well. On the [throw] flip, Kristina and Lyosha had difficulties, but still… Let’s just say the jump part, A&R did better.”

[The other guy says that S/B had a 5-point advantage over A/R after the short.] “Well, it’s going to be difficult [for A/R to overtake S/B] because the technical side was practically equal.” [The other guy suggests it might go in A/R’s favor.] “Well, over here, there is quite a loyal attitude towards Canadians, and… ”

[The other guy talks about PCS.] “The PCS also shouldn’t be [high] because the skating was quite juniorish, and the lifts were not the most difficult, and the throws were two of the simplest ones. The triple Salchow and triple toe throws are not the most difficult throws.”

[The other guy says S/B got 116 points for their free skate at Junior Worlds. Note: S/B scored 115.00 in their Junior Worlds LP.] “Well, it is difficult [to compare]. You can’t compare a junior mark to a senior mark–they don’t correspond with each other in any way.” [The other guy says S/B should get lower scores in seniors, but Trankov replies:] “Well, if there’s an additional element, the marks should be approximately in the same region.” [The other guy says: ‘the lift.’] “Yes. Plus the lift, plus PCS, because you are skating longer in any event, by 30 seconds. But the guys [S/B] did well, because in principle they skated everything clean, they did all the jumps. All the things they can do–they showed. It’s not going to go unnoticed by the judges. And they skated two programs clean, which will also be a serious, let’s say, underlay for their marks.”

Seguin/Bilodeau: “In principle, they skated everything clean, they did all the jumps.” (Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images AsiaPac)

[Trankov watches a replay of their twist.] “Look at this. First of all, their twist was underrotated, and secondly, there was no catch. In actual fact, the technical specialist should lower this score, because the twist was underrotated. It’s very clear to see even without the replay.”

[They discuss who S/B’s coach is. Note: It is Josee Picard.] “With these guys, the question will be to the technical specialist–to what extent he is going to punish them, to what extent he liked them, because there were mistakes. You could see in the slow-motion replays. And the female partner’s variation in the lift wasn’t very difficult; [also] the twist was underrotated.”

[The other guy says they won over A/R.]
“But they still lost in the free skate.”


On James/Cipres’ short program:

[in the beginning]
“Well, this is, in fact, technically one of the strongest pairs. They trained all summer with us, with Stanislav [Stas] Morozov. Last year, or in general in the previous seasons, their biggest obstacle was the twist element, and Stas fixed it, and afterward they became very competitive. The guys [J/C] jump very well and have very big throws. And they are in general very striking, thanks to the female partner. The male partner is strong and attractive, and the female partner [has an] exotic look.”

[on the triple twist] “You see, they started doing the twist. They became absolutely competitive. But because they either lack experience or a certain discipline. Well, for the French generally, it’s… let’s say…”

[on the SBS triple toe loops, which Vanessa doubled] “Well, you see here again, a [mistake] on the jump. These are simply stupid mistakes that the guys make here, and they are lacking in something. I don’t know what. Because they can skate in a way that they should be feared by the Canadians and the Russians and the Chinese, but the guys make a few little mistakes competition after competition, and sometimes big mistakes, so that …” [He is interrupted by the other commentator.]  “As an example, I can give the European Championships, when the guys were skating their free skate. They weren’t skating bad, and suddenly at some point, Vanessa instead of doing a lift from the free skate, she started doing a lift from the short [program], and the guys were left without a lift. So… this says a lot about… I mean, how can you forget an element that you are doing at a competition? And the guys just gave away a bronze [medal at Europeans]. Of course, these things hurt them a lot. However, I’d like to repeat that the guys could be such a competition [for the top teams] that they better watch out! [He uses a Russian expression. Literally translated, it is: ‘Mum, don’t be sad,’ meaning that it can set great fear in someone.]

James/Cipres: “They can skate in a way that should be feared . . . But the guys make a few little mistakes competition after competition.” (Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images AsiaPac)

[on the step sequence]
“Well, it’s difficult for me to talk about the step sequences because this season, I don’t really understand them, so to speak, because me and Tanya missed a season. I am used to seeing pairs skating, where the people skate as a pair, whereas this season somehow pairs skating turned out not to be really necessary. People skate parallel to each other quite a lot. All the step sequences are [skated in] parallel.”

[on the death spiral–the other commentator asks if they managed to hold on to complete the rotation and Trankov says:] “I didn’t quite see because the picture was from the top [angle], but I don’t think it will help them much even if they held on, because with a double toe loop…” [The other commentator talks about base value.] “The other thing is that you are not really allowed to jump a double toe loop, so the mistake is made worse by the fact that the requirements state that the jump should either be a triple or a double Axel. Double jumps are generally…” [The other guy says that they will still count.] “Well, they will count, but with a very big deduction. It’s like an illegal element.” [Trankov actually says ‘illegal element’ in English and struggles to translate it. The other guy says ‘wrong element’, and Trankov replies:] “Yes, wrong. So it’s severely punished.” [The other guy asks why it counts at all and Trankov says:] “Well, you can’t really disregard it completely. It was still executed. 50% of it was executed. The male partner showed what they were doing. If they had just gone on and done a perfect double toe, then maybe they would have somehow got less [marks]. So it’s punished like an underrotation.” [Trankov clarifies that Cipres jumped a triple and James did a double.]

[during the replays] “But generally, it’s difficult for these guys to work. They don’t have a pairs skating coach. They are coached by Morgan’s coach, who coached him when he was still skating as a singles skater in juniors. It’s his coach, and now he is training them in pairs skating, and they are also assisted by Fabien Bourzat–a European champion in ice dancing–so of course…”

[The other guy asks why they didn’t stay with Stanislav Morozov.] “Well, the French federation decided… They didn’t perform very well at the GP events and, in any event, it was difficult for them in Moscow and expensive and at one point the relationship became very strained, so to speak, between our [Russian] federation and the European Union. At some point, they were just taken back, simply taken, and they were told that… I know Vanessa was very upset about it. She cried over it, but the French federation told them to go back home, so they went back home.”


On Astakhova/Rogonov’s free skate:

[on their opening SBS jump combination] “Great start! The combination of a triple and two double toe loops is a very valuable combination. It’s one of the most valuable in pairs skating. Only a triple/triple or a loop as the second jump is more valuable.”

[on the triple twist–the other commentator asks whether it was level 3] “I doubt it. These guys are still learning the twist. It’s a level 1, level 2 element.” [Note: The twist got level 2.]

[on their second set of jumps] “And this is their second jump element. Salchow. Triple Salchow. Well done. These guys are lacking in speed a little bit, but for a first season, the main thing is that they manage the technical side.”

[on the death spiral–the other commentator says that Rogonov had the same entry with his previous partner] “Well, of course. Partners change, but some elements remain. Some elements that you did well just need improving, that’s all.”

[on their throw triple flip] “They managed to do it. Kristina did well. But.. it’s the throw that they didn’t manage to do in the short program. That led to a fall in the short program. In the free skate, it wasn’t done very precisely, but the guys did it.”

[on their throw triple loop] “Well done, [Kristina]. The jump elements, the coordination elements, the guys managed to do them up to 98%.”

[before their first lift] “Now, it’s time for Lyosha to work. Oi oi oi! They lost balance a little in the lift. The thing I would like to repeat is, and maybe it’s a question for the choreographers and program designers… These guys have very little speed, and it’s very difficult to do a lift at such low speed. If the female partner is losing her axis a little bit, then at high speed it is always possible to adjust her a little bit and come and save her. But at low speed, you have to do it on toe picks and the lift appears very short and not the most attractive.”

[on their second lift] “In principle, Lyosha is a very experienced partner, a partner who knows how to lift. It’s just experience, and the experience of the choreographer. They have a very young choreographer working with them.” [Note: Sergei Komolov.] “He needs to understand that the program is very over-packed with transitions. It’s interesting to watch, but you get tired. I got tired watching them by the middle of the program. There’s so much going on. Somewhere, you just want beautiful lines–that they skate parallel and fly next to each other. Especially at the end of the program, when we are going on rhythm, and you want them to finish strong. You want them to go with power, to do the lifts with power. Whereas these guys [A/R] do two little transitions, little steps, and then he lifts her and there’s no speed left, and they finish midway through. They break off the lift midway through, and this immediately looks juniorish.”

Astakhova/Rogonov: “The program is very over-packed with transitions. It’s interesting to watch, but you get tired.” (Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images AsiaPac)

[after they finish] “But it’s their first season, and this is a great success. At their first World Championships, to perform the free skate so securely! These guys can congratulate each other, and I also want to congratulate Artur Dmitriev–a specialist with whom I have trained in the past. I’m very happy for Artur that, two years in a row, he brings pairs to the World Championships. Even though they are alternates, the alternates don’t look in any way worse than members of the first team. It’s good that we have such a young generation growing to replace the old.”

[The other commentator says something about Julia Antipova. But Trankov ignores him, and says about A/R:] “A pair in their first year, not even a year… It was very good. When it comes to the components and the skating, these guys will most likely improve. I’m sure in 10 minutes’ time, these guys will be sitting in the stands watching more experienced pairs skaters and taking some notes for themselves. But I am very happy with their performance. Well done.”

[The other commentator says Kristina was happy to get a chance to go to Worlds.] “Well, for her, it’s a unique season because she has no experience whatsoever. She never skated in GP events. This year was the first year she’s skating in GP events. I’m not even sure she competed in juniors. Well, maybe a few years ago. She did very well. You can tell that she is able to psych herself up [for competitions].”

Maxim Trankov’s Commentary on the Pairs Event at 2015 Worlds: Part 1

Last year in Sochi, Maxim Trankov and his partner Tatiana Volosozhar reached the pinnacle of pairs skating, winning two gold medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Volosozhar/Trankov took this season off to rehabilitate Max’s shoulder injury. However, Max stayed involved in pairs by choreographing Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov’s competitive programs and commentating on pairs skating for Russian TV. Recently, he offered commentary on the pairs event at the 2015 World Championships. Max’s Worlds commentary was translated by Xela M and published on the FSU forum. We wanted to re-post Max’s commentary here as well, so it would be accessible to more readers.

2014 Olympic champion Maxim Trankov
2014 Olympic champion Maxim Trankov

We think you’ll find the Olympic champion’s thoughts on the pairs event at Worlds quite interesting and informative, to say the least!

Xela M was born in Moscow, Russia, and now resides in London, England. She is a solicitor and a huge figure skating fan!

Trankov on Duhamel/Radford’s short program:

[at the start] “The [SBS triple] Lutz is going to give them a great advantage in the short. Plus, these guys now have the status of leaders this season and are going to get bonus points.”

[on their twist] “Very good quality. It is going to be level 3 for sure.” [Note: The twist got level 3.]

[on the SBS triple Lutz] “Yes. Stamped it.”

[on the throw flip/Lutz] “Well, look at this throw flip. It’s funny to compare.” [I believe it was a comparison to Pang/Tong.]

[on the SBS spins] “Very close to each other. Very well done. Although Eric traveled on his spin and it wasn’t centered. But I still expect them to get level 3 on the side-by-side spins because they were very close to each other.” [Note: The spins got level 4.]

[on the lift] “Lifts are not their strength. It’s a juniorish lift. Some juniors do harder lifts.” [Trankov goes on to explain why the lift is simple: Meagan is in an easy position and anyone can do this type of lift.] “It’s not very difficult. However, if you have all your other elements, you don’t need to strain yourself, so to speak. Although I would rather jump a toe loop, but do a difficult lift.”

[on the death spiral] “Well done!”

[after they finished] “Well done! That Lutz gives them a great boost. Plus, they were very smart. This year, songs were allowed, and they chose a very powerful French song. I don’t particularly like the judges’ decision regarding the music cuts (that skaters have to take different music pieces). At least they should have specified that there should be one theme. How can you compare Tchaikovsky to a popular song that the judges probably heard in their car before coming here? It changes the perception [of the program] and influences the judges, and I don’t really like this. Because the PCS scores that these guys have been getting this year are very high and don’t adequately reflect their skating. There isn’t really much pairs skating. They skate parallel to each other, like two single skaters who are both excellent jumpers. When you take the throws as well, he doesn’t really throw her, but she almost jumps herself.”

[on their SBS triple Lutz and that it was done from the correct edge] “This was very well done. The Canadians hardly ever have a problem with this. They are taught to jump from the correct edge from childhood onward. We also used to be taught the correct way in the past, but somehow we took our eye off the ball. I could never understand how you can flutz. I have jumped the Lutz and the flip from the correct edges all my life. The Lutz and the flip are such different jumps, with completely different technique.” [He goes on to discuss how the “new generation” confuses the two jumps and said that Kovtun tried to explain to him that it was easy to confuse the two, but that he couldn’t understand it.]

[on D/R’s 4-point lead] “It’s possible to still catch them. If they skate clean, it won’t be possible. But if they’re not clean, it’s still possible. “

On Duhamel/Radford’s free skate:

[at the start] “I think this is going to be a training skate for them, a run-through.”

[The other commentator says that D/R don’t even have to include their throw quad Salchow.] “Absolutely. Even with the SBS triple Lutz, they win the technical mark. But I don’t think they will leave it out, because it’s the element that everyone is waiting for, so to speak.”

[on their skating after their twist]
“Take each other by the hand at least somewhere!”

[on their SBS triple Lutz–the other commentator says that Eric two-footed it]
“I couldn’t see that, to be honest. But there was a hard landing. Although I think everything was [okay].”

[on the throw quad Salchow] “It was done with a touch down with both hands. There was clearly a shift of weight.”

[on the SBS spins] “Oi oi oi oi! That’s a serious mistake.” [The other commentator asks if they will get level 2 and deductions.] “Well, it depends on… I don’t know…These guys are skating according to their own rules. I don’t want to comment, because I don’t want to appear uninformed. But normally it’s a botched spin, they should lose at least a whole level, because there wasn’t even a difficult position in the rotation.” [Note: The spin got level 3.]

[on their other jumps] “There were no problems here.”

[on their first lift] “Here… Remember [Evgenia] Tarasova’s difficult position. Although it will be marked…”

[on their combination spin] “By the way, if we are looking at an element like the combination spin, the position is the same in both directions on both feet. There isn’t much variation of rotation there. It’s the same on both feet.”

[on their throw triple flip/Lutz] “This is an interesting and difficult entrance into the throw flip.”

[afterward] “Now the judges will have to give them PCS, because there were mistakes.”

[on their last lift] “This is that juniorish lift that Eric manages to do with great effort at the end of the program.”

A lift from Duhamel/Radford  (Xinhua/Wang Lili)
Duhamel/Radford: “Lifts are not their strength.” (Xinhua/Wang Lili)

[when they finish] “But they did well. They won [for] Canada–I’m sure I can say at this stage–the gold medal.”

[The other commentator thinks Trankov does not sound very enthusiastic.] “Well, for me, it wasn’t a masterpiece, and in the absence of their rivals… However, a title is a title. A medal is a medal. And they will be written into the history books as Canadian world champions. If I am not mistaken, since Sale/Pelletier, Canada did not have anyone.” [The other commentator clarifies whether Trankov means any Canadian world champions.] “I mean gold medalists. It has been many years since a Canadian team climbed to the top of the podium.”

Trankov and the other commentator then go on to discuss D/R’s off-ice personalities. They say that Meagan is very energetic and chatty and that she is a vegan; that Eric is a composer and that they even skated to his music in the Olympic season. The other commentator mentions that Eric came out as gay in the middle of the season, to which Trankov replies: “And Meagan is the fiancée of one of their coaches–Bruno Marcotte.” The other commentator then asks who Julie Marcotte [D/R’s choreographer] is, and Trankov says she is Bruno’s sister. And they also explain who their main coach is—Richard Gauthier.

[The other commentator says that D/R’s skate was not that of champions, to which Trankov replies:] “They did enough. It was absolutely enough, given the advantage that they had [going into the LP], the judges’ attitudes toward them this season, their previous skates this season, [the fact] that they skated very well all season.”

[The other commentator is appalled by how high D/R’s PCS scores are. But Trankov remains silent and only asks:] “Was this their season’s-best [score] or not?” [Note: It was not. D/R’s season’s-best LP score was at the GP Final.]

On Sui/Han’s short program:

[on their first SBS jumps] “Well done. They did the jump.”

[on their skating and the throw triple flip] “Look at the younger generation of Chinese skaters. China has a great tradition in pairs skating and they have great technique. The throws are big, the twists, they have interesting lifts, but they all skate parallel to each other, they hardly have any joint movement. Also the younger, newly formed pairs do not understand pairs skating. They stand next to each other on both feet, grab each other somewhere and start skating parallel to each other. This is the thing that’s now happening with pairs skating. Or in simple handholds–hand to hand. So if you examine it, you can see it.”

[Trankov then discusses the different holds and joint positions that are available.] “They are very rarely used by the modern generation of pairs skaters, so to speak. Mostly, you see this parallel skating. That’s what’s happening nowadays. That’s the direction that things are shifting a little. People are chasing jumps and quad throws and, of course, it’s a very hard and lengthy learning process. There is a lot to learn [to get those elements], and not everyone has enough time left to learn to skate.”

[on their lift and SBS spins] “Very interesting lift that they are doing. Not the easiest of positions. Everything else that concerns the Chinese school is present here–interesting lifts, very interesting spins. Pairs very rarely do this [SBS spin].”

[before the death spiral] “Only the forward inside death spiral element left to hit.” [The other commentator talks about their marks.] “They will get the marks. With so much crowd support, and they will now get marks for the death spiral. They will get the marks similar to the level of [Kavaguti/Smirnov].” [K/S were leading at that point in the SP.] “But I will repeat that it’s probably difficult to compare them with Yuko and Sasha. However, what the hell, the championship is in China, there is [crowd] support and the pressure by the audience on the judges is great. The audience also creates an atmosphere.”

[The other commentator says Yuko/Sasha have a quad throw, whereas Sui/Han have a quad twist.] “In actual fact, they [S/H] also have a quad throw. They are just not risking it for now. Not everybody is taking the risk. With the quad throw that they have, this is really going to be a throw–the bomb. And it’s very dangerous, injurywise. So if they had a little throw like Yuko & Sasha or…” [he clarifies that he means amplitude] “… Then it’s not so dangerous. Well, it’s also dangerous, but not so dangerous as when… You have seen yourself what a throw flip they [S/H] have. Imagine if it’s a quad–a fall from such a throw is of course an immediate injury. So, the risk is huge. Therefore pairs who do big throws…” [The repeat of S/H’s throw and the coach’s reaction is shown.] “Well, look at this… the flight as well. Especially taking into account that these guys are both not the tallest. And here is their coach, an Olympic champion—Hongbo Zhao—a legendary personality in Chinese skating. And the coach… These are the guys who took away Russia’s medals, Olympic medals. From 1964 to 2006, we haven’t lost a single Olympics [in pairs], but in 2010…” [The other commentator says that Russia failed to even medal in 2010.] “Well… yes… It did not work out for Yuko & Sasha, who were Russia’s first pair [that year] … They did not manage to win a medal. and of course there was a total failure in pairs skating. The main thing is that it’s not…” [The other commentator says: ‘Repeated.’] “Yes.”

[on S/H’s marks]
“They should have high technical marks because they skated very well.” [The other commentator mentions PCS.] “Well, PCS scores are up to…” [Trankov sees the scores, and the other commentator says they are higher than Yuko/Sasha’s.] “Only by a little bit.”

On Sui/Han’s free skate:

[The other commentator announces their names, and Trankov says:] “Young, young, but already quite experienced.”

[on the lift] “Interesting lift! But this was in fact the lift of their teachers, Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao–the Olympic champions from Vancouver. [The other guy says that they improved on the lift.] “Yes, but the guys did this lift position already. In any event, they started very well, with a quad twist, which wasn’t bad, with a combination of 3 toe loops–one triple and two doubles.”

[on the throw triple flip] “Throw flip. She relaxed a little too soon on the exit. She landed well, but… The judges won’t punish this too much.”

[on the combination spin] “Very interesting entry into the spin. You see, when you compare these guys to the Canadians, they are always looking for and finding some interesting positions. Very interesting positions in the spins, different positions.”

Sui/Han:  "Very interesting positions in the spins, different positions."  (Xinhua/Wang Lili)
Sui/Han: “Very interesting positions in the spins, different positions.” (Xinhua/Wang Lili)

[The other commentator says that they interpret the music well.] “Yes, of course… to skate to Tchaikovsky… They really challenged themselves when they chose this music, because it’s very serious music, and you just cannot skate poorly to it.”

[on the SBS triple Salchow] “Triple Salchow, but I’m not sure what the male partner did. They were very far apart. They jumped very far from each other.”

[on the triple Salchow throw] “Throw triple Salchow.”

[on their second lift] “The lifts the guys have are, of course, very difficult, very striking.”

[when they finish] “Well done! [They skated] very much with feeling, with very good speed, with very good emotions. Look, they are winning the technical mark, first place in the technical mark.”

[The other guy says that they have always looked at this pair as some young Chinese pair and Trankov replies:] “Well, no, technically they have always been very good. But, of course, this skate… let’s say… ” [The other commentator keeps interrupting him.] “Of course, to skate at home with so much emotion. It was a very worthy skate. Many new variations in the elements, interesting lifts, interesting spins. It’s the kind of pairs skating that’s a pleasure to watch and that people appreciate. Of course, the last two teams were perhaps the jewel of this last warmup group. It’s not always that the skate of the champions is the best. It happens. When you come out tight, you just need to keep the medal and just skate for the result. That’s why we can’t be too enthusiastic about the Canadian team. They [D/R] did very well that they won their medal, that they held on. Whereas these guys who competed with each other–the three Chinese pairs that came in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, one after the other–they were of course the jewel of today’s event. And of course, our Tarasova/Morozov did well, and Astakhova/Rogonov did well to climb up, to rehabilitate themselves, to get into the top ten.” [The other guy says A/R were 9th in the free skate.] “Yes, they did well to get into the top ten. And again, T/M did well–to compete somewhat with the experienced Kavaguti/Smirnov. It shows that we have a replacement that’s growing.”

[The other commentator compares T/M to S/H.] “Well, you can’t say that, because it’s the first year that T/M are skating [in seniors], whereas it’s the fourth year these guys [S/H] are skating in seniors. They are already three-time junior world champions. They are of course, for now, a class above T/M. But T/M are just starting to collect their bonus points, their respect from the judges. I think at these World Championships…” [He is interrupted again by the other commentator.]

[The other commentator says that Volosozhar/Trankov will provide a ‘buffer’ for T/M for now.] “Yes, of course. After these world championships, I’m even more certain now that I want to return next season, because I see that we can compete and that no one is getting the scores Tatiana and I were getting in the short and the free skates the past few seasons, in the PCS scores. In the technical, yes, they came close, but Tatiana and I didn’t stand still either. We learned some new elements, some new lifts, we also have room to improve.”

[The other commentator says D/R beat S/H.] “Well, they [D/R] skated stronger technically today. I think in the technical mark, they should be close to the Canadians.”

[The other commentator says A/R managed well. Trankov adds:] “Tarasova/Morozov did well. Yuko/Sasha didn’t manage, unfortunately.”


On Pang/Tong’s short program:

[before the start] “Let’s see what Chinese tango the guys [P/T] will show us.”

[The other commentator says that they are married. Trankov replies:] “I don’t know about marriage, but he certainly proposed, I was even there to witness it.” [The other commentator jokes about whether she said yes.] “Yes, it was done on the ice, during a show in China. We were all prepared. He prepared us all. We all had petals and, at the end of the show when he proposed, we threw petals on them. So it was beautifully done by him.”

[on the SBS triple toe jumps–Trankov laughs:] “It’s a good thing there aren’t more competitions in China, just the one GP [Cup of China], because if the Chinese always skated like that … doing things they never normally do …”

[on the throw triple loop] “Superb! To be honest, I don’t know anyone who lands throws like that. Not even a tremble of the arm or leg… She stands up just like him, as if she never even flew through the air. This is, of course… class! This is…” [The other guy interrupts, saying that Pang is very consistent in landing her throws.] “Yes, I don’t remember anyone… Once in a while, some people manage to achieve this, even Tatiana and I manage it sometimes, but for it to be so consistent like she is doing it, for it to be every throw… This is an absolute definite +3 points from the judges… ” [He uses a Russian expression literally translated “as iron”, meaning it’s absolutely certain.] “Not even +3 points, but… plus…3 points!” [Note: P/T got mostly +3s for the throw.]

Pang/Tong:  "I don't know anyone who lands throws like that . . . Not even a tremble of the arm or leg."
Pang/Tong: “I don’t know anyone who lands throws like that . . . Not even a tremble of the arm or leg.”

[afterward] “In actual fact, I was expecting a tango, but the guys changed the short program. Because at 4CCs, they skated a tango, and now it’s a different programme. Yes?… “Moonflower” by Secret Garden. This is…” [The other commentator says the tango was an old program. Trankov responds:] “I don’t actually know, but they skated a tango. We trained together in Moscow last year, and the guys were preparing a tango. They had a very interesting step sequence in it. I remember. I watched them very closely. I think such music [“Moonflower”] is better suited to a swan song. Of course, it’s very moving. I’m sure it will get many viewers in the stands to tear up.”

[The other commentator starts shouting that they shouldn’t lose unison on the SBS spins.] “Well, it wasn’t such a major loss of unison. It’s not so serious. I’m sure, for them, the judges will make some kind of allowance.”

[after they finish]
“The guys did so well! This was a very serious skate. and I don’t think they will lose now.” [i.e., They will be the current leaders.]

[The other commentator says the Chinese audience is not as loud as Japanese audiences.] “Well, these are completely different nations. Completely different, let’s say… cultures. But trust me, the Chinese audience also always gives a very warm reception to figure skating.”

[The other commentator says that when Shen/Zhao won the 2010 Olympics, they didn’t have as much speed as some of the other teams, but that Pang/Tong do have speed.] “Yes, [they skate] big. But Nikolai Morozov, in actual fact, did a lot of work with them. Because when he brought them back… He was looking through 1000 blades for the male partner. They changed the blades, to the extent that Nikolai didn’t even like the sound of his blades. He was saying, ‘You skate louder than the music!’ So they looked through lots of models, and in the end, they returned to the classic blades on which he had always skated. Because he came from China with some different blades. And there was such a screeching noise from him on the ice that right before 4CCs, a week before 4CCs, they changed his blades.” [The other guy asks if Nikolai was annoyed by the sound.] “Well, it was very noisy. For us as well. We all went, like, ‘Why is he doing this? What is that noise?!’ So he [Morozov] did a lot! He went to find the blades, sharpened them, so… Nikolai Morozov is a very versatile coach, in that he takes care of the placing of the skates and every detail and just about anything and…

[The other commentator says Morozov knows everything.] “Yes, and he did very comfortable programs for them, so that they are comfortable doing all the elements, practically jumping the triple toe in sync with them, so absolutely everything… I [had] just came back from the hospital and they had just allowed me to jump, and I was playing with him doing the triple toe. I jumped a triple toe, and he jumped a triple toe. So he was recovering from his knee surgery and me from my shoulder surgery.”

[The other commentator says P/T’s marks were too low.] “Well, for such a skate… In actual fact, for such a program, these are good marks. 73 points is an okay mark this year.”

To avoid confusion, this is the video to this translation…

During a repeat of this program on Russian TV, Trankov apparently did new, additional commentary.


On Peng/Zhang’s short program:.

[before the start] “In 2006, Hao Zhang became an Olympic silver medalist. That’s why, to me, he seems like a grandfather, even though in actual fact, he is younger than me. But in athletic and pairs-skating sense, he is of course an old-timer, a survivor. Let’s wish him luck.”

[on their SBS triple toe loop jumps] “That’s what I was talking about…” [i.e., that in China, the Chinese skaters skate differently.] “Although the [male] partner had more problems. Also a serious statement already.”

[before their twist] “Simply speaking, the Chinese twists are well-known, as are their throws. It’s also very interesting the way the guys’ program begins. They did the jump first, then the death spiral if I’m not mistaken, then the step sequence, and only now comes the twist. Let’s say it’s an unusual elements layout.” [The other commentator says that they must be very confident in their twist.] “Well… Hao Zhang… Of course.”

[The other commentator says they still have the throw to do.] “The throw, these guys do well, also. Here as well, the marks are clearly not going to be low.”

[on their lift] “The lift is also very interesting, a difficult entry.”

[on the SBS spins] “This element is not their strongest, let’s put it this way. Because the male and female partners take on completely different positions.” [The other commentator says they lost unison.] “Yes. Firstly, it was not in unison. Secondly, in the first position they are doing different… I don’t really understand this spin at all, to be honest, because they are holding completely different positions.”

[The other commentator compliments their program.] “Yes, it was all there. You can tell that the program was done for them by a good choreographer. It wasn’t just something… a ‘self-made’ something. But it’s a difficult subject matter, a difficult musical composition. It’s difficult to say something about the program because you need to understand the vision of the choreographer and what the athletes wanted to portray. It’s often different–the idea of the choreographer and the outcome of the performance. There’s often a difference between what a choreographer and what the athletes want to show.”

[Trankov watches the slo-mo repeats, and the other commentator says Hao exited his jump on his toe pick.] “Well, they are not going to be punished much for that.”

[Trankov sees the replay of the twist.] “The twist is, of course, superb.”

[The other guy asks why there is such a difference to S/H’s score.] “Well, [S/H did] throw flip and [P/Z did] throw loop. But also, of course, the other guys [S/H] performed all these elements cleaner. And then you have to look at the levels; these are nuances. They could have got level 3 for their step sequence, I think they got level 3 for their step sequence, whereas Sui/Han got level 4.” [Note: This is correct; P/Z had StSq3 in the SP and S/H had StSq4.]

[The other guy says that P/Z’s lifts would have got the same level as S/H.] “Yes, the lifts are level 4, without a doubt. Hao is nicknamed ‘Big China.’ The whole world calls him ‘Big China.’ He’s very big and tough [physically]. It’s completely uncharacteristic for a Chinese guy. He’s really huge.”

"Big China" with his partner Cheng Peng
“Big China” with his partner Cheng Peng

[The other commentator says that Hao looks nicer now.] “Well, he got married in the summer. Maybe his wife made him look nicer.”