At the Starting Line

Tomorrow, the senior fall season officially starts with the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. Yay!!! It’s been such a long wait, but finally the new season is here. 🙂 I thought I’d do a quick roundup article to summarize what’s been going on with pairs in the offseason and what to look for as the season starts.

In this recap, I’ll just cover pairs who are competing on the GP. One note: Many of the new program listings below are links to videos of the programs. Just click to see the program. (Hope I got most of them right! :-))

The Russians

Last week, the Russian pairs participated in open test skates in Sochi, which was a great opportunity to see all their new programs. Some of the programs had been presented earlier, but many were new.


SP: Bollywood (“Nagada Sang Dahl” from Ram-leela)

LP: Dracula/Van Helsing

CS events: Nebelhorn

GP events: TEB, NHK

Tatiana and Max's wedding!
Tatiana and Max’s wedding!

The Olympic champions have certainly been busy this offseason! Not only did they perform in shows around the world, they traveled to New York to work on choreography, did a training camp in Italy, and, most importantly, got married in Moscow on August 18. Congratulations to Tatiana/Maxim on their wedding! 🙂 With all the travel and wedding excitement, you have to wonder how much serious training time V/T have really had this summer. Nonetheless, their showing at the Russian test skates was fairly good. The elements were there, including the new throw 3F. They still need to improve their speed and precision to get back into competitive form, though. Tatiana/Max are scheduled to start their season one week from now at Nebelhorn (Sept. 24-26). It’ll be fascinating seeing them back in competition. Nebelhorn will be a warmup event for them, I think. The truer test will come at TEB (Nov. 13-15), where they’ll want to be fully back in competitive shape.


SP: “I’ll Put a Spell on You”

LP: The Unknown Known

CS events: Ondrej Nepela

GP events: SA, RC

Is this a “comeback” season for Stolbova/Klimov, after their decision to skip Worlds last spring? I feel like it is. For the last 6 months, the talk has been mostly of Duhamel/Radford, Sui/Han, and Volosozhar/Trankov’s return. Where do Ksenia/Fedor fit in? We’ll see. They didn’t make quite the opening statement at the Russian test skates that I was expecting. Although they looked in good shape, there were double twists, flubbed jumps, scratchy landings, and a general lack of spark. Early reaction to the programs was subdued, with the SP getting more positive comments than the LP. Stolbova/Klimov need to kick things into gear soon. Their season starts in 2 weeks at Ondrej Nepela (Oct. 1-3). Then it’s only 2 more weeks until they appear at Skate America (Oct. 23-25). They’re facing strong fields at both events, so they’re going to need their A game–especially at Skate America, if they hope to make the GP Final. They’ve been dealing with a minor injury to Ksenia this summer, so hopefully that doesn’t affect them too much.


SP: “Lord of the Dance”/ “Warriors” by Ronan Hardiman

LP: Chopin no. 2

CS events: Ondrej Nepela

GP events: SC, TEB

Tarasova/Morozov are like the quiet younger brother and sister in the Russian pairs family. We didn’t hear much about them during the offseason. It seems they train quietly in the background, while their teammates get most of the attention. Nonetheless, Evgenia/Vladimir were the best-prepared, best-trained, and most consistent team at the Russian test skates. Their programs were cleanly skated with excellent elements, and they looked fit and competition-ready. Response to their programs was rather muted. However, if they continue to put out elements like they did at the test skates and improve through the season, they should score extremely well. I expect strong performances from them at Ondrej Nepela and Skate Canada. In fact, I would pick them to win Nepela over Stolbova/Klimov.


SP: “I Finally Found Someone” by Barbra Streisand/Ryan Adams

LP: Manfred Symphony

CS events: None yet

GP events: CoC, RC

More Manfred (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America)
More Manfred (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America)

Yuko/Sasha are starting this season in somewhat tentative fashion. Their new SP is still developing, and Sasha said at the test skates that they may change it. They considered new LP music this summer but didn’t find anything they liked, so are keeping their Manfred Symphony LP. They plan to add a throw quad loop to their LP, but have yet to land it cleanly either in shows or at the test skates. They are not announced for a CS or Senior B event yet (although they could do Mordovian Ornament in Russia, Oct. 15-18). In performances this summer, they’ve shown their usual polish and refinement, but have also looked a bit slow and undertrained. They still have almost 2 months to go until Cup of China (Nov. 6-8), though, so there’s time yet to get back in top form.


SP: The Artist

LP: A puppet master brings his puppet to life (different music selections)

CS events: Ondrej Nepela

GP events: SA, CoC

Kristina/Andrei got a good, early start in the offseason, debuting their new SP not long after Worlds. Coach Artur Dmitriev said that, for them, this season is about becoming consistent and developing as a team. Their triple twist and lifts both look improved, and their new programs showed nice artistic growth between their initial debuts and the Russian test skates. So, all that is good. However, they had a lot of jump mistakes at the test skates and in other summer performances. This makes me nervous, as much of their success last season was due to solid jump elements. Hopefully that improves once regular competition begins. Kristina/Andrei start their season on the same schedule as Stolbova/Klimov: Ondrej Nepela, then Skate America.


SP: Chopin no. 2

LP: Beatles medley (Abbey Road/White Album)

CS events: None yet

GP events: SC, NHK

Vera/Andrei showed very nice programs at the Russian test skates; the Chopin SP, in particular, looks like a winner. However, technically, there are still many question marks. Their throw triple loop looked good, and the lifts were better as well. However, the twist and individual jumps were quite shaky. Right now Vera/Andrei do not have any CS events, but I expect we may see them at Mordovian Ornament (Oct. 15-18). That would be a good warm-up for their first GP event, Skate Canada (Oct. 30-Nov.1).


SP: “Juno and Avos” by Alexei Rybnikov

LP: Thunder and Heaven by George Garvarents

CS events: None yet

GP events: RC

This pair just formed this summer, but have not competed or shown their programs yet because Zabijako suffered a heel injury. They were assigned the last host spot at Rostelecom Cup.

The Canadians


SP: “Your Song” from Moulin Rouge (there’s a link to this on The Divine Sport Facebook page–you’ll need to scroll down toward the bottom though)

LP: “Hometown Glory” by Adele

Senior B events: Skate Canada Autumn Classic (reported)

GP events: SC, NHK

A photo of Meagan's wedding, tweeted by Eric Radford
A photo of Meagan’s wedding, tweeted by Eric Radford

Like Volosozhar/Trankov, Meagan/Eric have been very busy this offseason, traveling the world for shows and also for Meagan’s June wedding in Bermuda! (Congratulations to Meagan and Bruno! :-)) However, they are now back to training full-time. And if TSL’s excellent new feature on D/R is any indication, they look to be in good shape and well prepared. They’re excited about their new programs and are adding a throw quad Lutz to their LP. Once again, they are upping the technical ante, and it will be very interesting to see them battle V/T, S/H, and the rest of the field to stay on top. I fully expect to see dominant performances from them at Autumn Classic and Skate Canada. Then comes the showdown with V/T at NHK!!


SP: “Since I’ve Been Loving You” by Led Zeppelin

LP: Rachmaninov no. 2

CS events: Ondrej Nepela

GP events: CoC, NHK

Dylan suffered a finger injury during the early offseason, which hampered the team’s preparations for Skate Detroit. Nonetheless, they won that event, and reaction to their programs was positive. Since then, we haven’t heard much from them. Luba/Dylan open their season at Ondrej Nepela against a very tough field—three top Russian pairs, plus Marchei/Hotarek. They’ll need to be in good form, so let’s hope training has been going well. Afterward, they have a month to train until their GP debut at CoC (Nov. 6-8).


SP: “Monde Inverse” by Cirque du Soleil

LP: “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum/piano piece by Karl Hugo

CS events: Nebelhorn

GP events: SA, TEB

Julianne/Charlie won the Quebec Summer Championships in August with two good performances. Their programs this year are original and interesting; early comments were very positive. Their twist looked improved in Quebec, but lift positions still need work. Julianne/Charlie start their season a week from now at Nebelhorn, followed by Skate America a month later. This team looks set for a good season.


SP: “If I Can’t Have You” by Etta James

LP: Romeo & Juliet

CS events: None yet  U.S. International Classic

GP events: SC, RC

Kirsten/Mike switched coaches this summer to Gauthier/Marcotte in Montreal. They seem to be enjoying their new training environment. They competed their SP at the Quebec Summer Championships and placed second. They are not entered yet for any CS events, Oops! I missed seeing them on the U.S. International Classic entry list. They are competing this week in Salt Lake.




CS events: None yet

GP events: RC

This pair just formed this summer and received a GP assignment as a returning/split team. They were scheduled to compete at the Thornhill summer competition but had to withdraw due to injury. As with MT/M, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them at Autumn Classic. Getting at least some competitive experience before their GP would certainly be helpful.

The Chinese


SP: “Spanish Romance”/ “Farrucas”

LP: Samson & Delilah

CS events: Nonetheless

GP events: SA, CoC

Sui/han's new SP
Sui/han’s new SP

Sui/Han looked really strong at the recent Chinese test skates. They’re adding a throw quad Salchow to their LP, and although it’s not consistent yet, it seems like this could become a standout element for them. The quad throws S/H did at the test skates had really nice distance and flow–qualities we haven’t seen before in quad throws. There is a lot of excitement right now around this team, and their new programs have been well received. I can’t wait to see them at Skate America. Like many, I expect a big season from them.


SP: “Come Together” by The Beatles (tango version)

LP: The Pearl Fishers by Bizet

CS events: None

GP events: TEB, RC

Cheng Peng is reportedly recovering from an injury (a skate blade slashed her leg). As a result, she and partner Hao Zhang looked good at the Chinese test skates, but not in their best condition yet. Like Sui/Han, they’ve been practicing the throw quad Salchow this summer, although we don’t know if they’ve landed the jump yet. Their programs by Lori Nichol again look very intriguing. Let’s hope that Cheng is fully recovered for TEB (Nov. 13-15).




CS events: None

GP events: CoC, NHK

Yu/Jin: No new programs?
Yu/Jin: No new programs?

After making the GP Final and winning Junior Worlds last year, you’d think the Chinese federation would be pretty happy with Yu/Jin. However, they were not named to the first-tier Chinese national team. And (unofficial) word is that they didn’t get new programs this season. I don’t understand why the Chinese federation is not providing more support for this talented team. Yu/Jin are facing tough fields in their GP events, and they could have used new programs to help build excitement and interest for their season. Granted, if they execute as well as they did last year, they should still place well. But I’m scratching my head over the lack of new programs. Like S/H and P/Z, Yu/Jin have been working on the throw quad Salchow this summer.




CS events: None

GP events: SA, CoC

Like Yu/Jin, Wang/Wang also were not named to the first-tier Chinese team and also were apparently not given new programs. Another mystery, considering how successful this team was on last year’s GP circuit (2 medals). Wang/Wang have not competed internationally for 10 months now; I hope the judges at Skate America remember who they are. (Even a lot of skating fans don’t.) I feel this team could really have benefited from a CS or senior B assignment, just for the exposure.

The Americans


SP: “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica

LP: Elizabeth: The Golden Age

CS events: Nebelhorn

GP events: SA, NHK

Alexa/Chris: Ready for a big year
Alexa/Chris: Ready for a big year

Alexa/Chris only competed once this summer at Skate Milwaukee, a small club competition. But they’ve stayed in the spotlight via a terrific TSL feature on them. They also won the SKATING magazine Readers’ Choice award. And in an IceNetwork predictions article, several IN writers picked S/K to win a medal at Worlds this year! Clearly, there is a lot of buzz around this team. So what can we expect from Alexa/Chris? We know they’ve been working on 1) raising the level of their quad twist, 2) improving their overall unison and presentation, and 3) getting a 3T or 3T/3T sequence. Early clips of their Golden Age program look promising. Alexa/Chris start their season next week in Nebelhorn. I’d love to see them have a strong event, win silver, and take that momentum into Skate America next month. They’re facing tough competition at Skate America, but I truly believe they can medal there with two good performances.


SP: “Espana Cani”

LP: “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera

CS events: U.S. International Classic

GP events: SA, RC

Kayne/O'Shea: Working on a throw quad Salchow (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America)
Kayne/O’Shea: Working on a throw quad Salchow (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America)

Tarah/Danny were scheduled to compete at Skate Detroit this summer, but had to withdraw due to a minor injury. They announced recently that they’ve been working on a throw quad Salchow, although it’s unclear exactly when and if we’ll see it in their LP. They will debut their new programs this weekend at U.S. International Classic. Next comes Skate America.


SP: “Summertime”

LP: Journey medley

CS events: U.S. Internat’l Classic

GP events: SC, TEB

Marissa/Mervin have had quite an interesting offseason. IceNetwork devoted a whole series of articles to the development of their new Journey LP; they also did a popular TSL interview. This exposure has helped broaden their fanbase and build excitement for their season. The actual skating, though, has been a little problematic. Marissa/Mervin competed at Skate Detroit and won the SP handily. However, they had major problems in the LP, so unfortunately the much-anticipated debut of their Journey LP fell a bit flat. Initial reaction to the program was mostly negative. Marissa/Mervin then competed their SP at the Quebec Summer Championships and won that segment, but again had a few errors. With the regular season arriving, it’s time for Marissa/Mervin to shake off those nerves and start to put together some solid competitive programs. They start their season today at U.S. Classic, where they’ll compete against two of their U.S. rivals. I’m hoping to see a good LP with a solid throw triple flip (an element I don’t think they’ve landed yet in competition). Their first GP event is Skate Canada (Oct. 30-Nov. 1).


SP: “All That Jazz” from Chicago

LP: Frank Sinatra medley

CS events: U.S. International Classic, Ondrej Nepela

GP events: SA

Gretchen/Nate had an unexpectedly strong showing at Skate Detroit, where they finished second in both segments. Their sultry Chicago SP was a hit, their lifts were lovely, and they seemed well prepared. Following that success, Donlan/Bartholomay were assigned to U.S. International Classic and got the final host spot at Skate America. In a surprise, they have changed LPs since Skate Detroit, switching from Rachmaninov no. 2 to a Frank Sinatra medley. It will be interesting to see the new LP at U.S. Classic. They’ll be looking to make a strong impression, building toward Skate America.


SP: “Hymne a l’Amour” by Edith Piaf

LP: La Boheme by Puccini

CS events: None (withdrew from Nebelhorn)

GP events: CoC

Maddie/Max were slated to compete at Nebelhorn, but withdrew this week for reasons not yet announced. So far they only have 1 GP event this year, so the season is not getting off to a great start for them. Hopefully they can regroup before CoC (Nov. 6-8).




CS events: None yet

GP events: NHK

Jessica Noelle/Zack have not announced new programs yet. Zack is returning from hip labrum surgery after Nationals. Reportedly he is back on the ice, but we haven’t heard much else. Hopefully they’ll be able to compete at NHK; it’s still over 2 months away, so that should help.

The Italians




CS/Senior B events: Lombardia Trophy, Ondrej Nepala

GP events: SC, RC

Valentina/Ondrej will debut their new programs this weekend at Lombardia Trophy. In their TSL interview earlier this summer, Valentina hinted their LP would be different and perhaps a bit unusual; I can’t wait to find out more about it. They’ve been working on the split triple twist this summer; hopefully they’ll be able to upgrade that element in their programs. After Lombardia, they will do Ondrej Nepela, followed by Skate Canada. This team was exciting last year, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of them.

Della Monica/Guarise

SP: Romeo & Juliet by Abel Korzeniowski

LP: Magnificat, vocals by Mina

CS/senior B events: None yet

GP events: TEB

Nicole/Matteo trained with Nina Mozer’s group in Italy for a few weeks this summer. They will be looking to rebound this season after disappointing performances at Worlds last year. As of right now, their only scheduled competition is TEB (Nov. 13-15).

The French & Austrians



LP: Romeo & Juliet (reportedly)

CS/senior B events: Nebelhorn

GP events: TEB, NHK

We haven’t heard much from James/Cipres over the summer. They begin their season next week at Nebelhorn. Afterward, they’ll have a month and a half to prepare for TEB. They too will be looking to come back from an up-and-down season last year.




CS/senior B events: Ondrej Nepela

GP events: SC

The young Austrians will start their season at Ondrej Nepela, where they’ll debut 2 new programs choreographed by Mark Pillay. Then a month later, they make their sole GP appearance at Skate Canada.


So that’s where things stand with the pairs at the start of the season. Like last year, I’ll try to do reviews of all the Grand Prix events this fall. It should be a great season!


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