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.”


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