Worlds 2016: Pairs Preview & Predictions

Only days to go now until the World Championships start in Boston! The pairs event should be be one of the highlights of this year’s Worlds. There are so many storylines this season in pairs; I’m looking forward to seeing how the last chapter plays out!

I don’t really love doing predictions/previews, but at the same time, I know everyone likes to read them! So below are my thoughts on what may happen in Boston.

To arrive at these predictions, I looked at season’s-best scores, competition placements, and, especially, each team’s average scores from the Grand Prix series, Europeans, and/or Four Continents.

I see the pairs in this competition falling into 4 placement tiers/groups. I’ll discuss each group separately. I’m more confident about which group each pair falls into than which exact placement each team is likely to earn in Boston. Still, though, I’ll take a stab at guessing individual placements.

Group 1: The Top Teams

Placements: 1-5

1 Volosozhar/Trankov
2 Savchenko/Massot
3 Sui/Han
4 Duhamel/Radford
5 Stolbova/Klimov

So these are my picks. But let me be clear: I think this top group is very hard to predict right now. These 5 teams could finish in almost any configuration, and I wouldn’t be surprised.

There are a couple reasons this group is hard to predict. First and foremost, these 5 teams haven’t all competed against each other this season. Volosozhar/Trankov and Savchenko/Massot have faced each other once; neither has competed against the other 3 teams. Second, two of the teams (Sui/Han, Stolbova/Klimov) have had significant injuries. In December at the Grand Prix Final, Stolbova/Klimov looked almost unbeatable. But since then, they haven’t competed at all. Who knows what kind of shape they’ll be in for Worlds?

Tatiana Volosozhar, Maxim Trankov

Volosozhar/Trankov: The favorites  (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

One thing I feel certain of: There’s really no reason to believe that Volosozhar/Trankov won’t win. Everything is in their favor. They’re coming off a strong win at Europeans. They have the best SP (and highest SP score of the season) and also a very good LP. They are reigning Olympic champions. Earlier this season, I questioned if their fitness level was sufficient to put out the kind of LP they’d need to win a major championship. But they dispelled such doubts with their strong Euros LP. V/T have momentum and reputation going for them. Also, their training appears to be progressing smoothly; they came to the U.S. several weeks early for training camp in New Jersey. Everything looks positive for the comeback couple.

The picture isn’t as clear for the other 4 pairs in this group. After their big splash at Euros, Savchenko/Massot had a somewhat disappointing follow-up at Bavarian Open. Duhamel/Radford had to drop out of Four Continents due to sickness and have made changes to their “Hometown Glory” LP. Sui/Han are going for 2 quads (twist/throw), but will her health hold up after struggling with injuries all season? Meanwhile, Stolbova/Klimov have the biggest win of the season, but are also the biggest question mark.

Like I said, I think it could go any way. But I’m picking Savchenko/Massot for silver on a hunch and a wish. Usually, I try to be objective; I admit I’m not being fully objective here. The numbers suggest that S/M will be closer to 5th than 2nd. And yet, I feel like when the judges see that twist, and the other elements, and the quality of their whole package … S/M’s GOE and PCS at Euros were very high. And no one knows better than Aliona how to reach the podium. This is Bruno’s first time competing at this level–can he control his nerves? If he does, my hunch is they may do surprisingly well. But I admit I’m going on instinct here, and not by the numbers.

Sui/Han are my pick for bronze. They have terrific programs; they have great GOE. The judges really respect this pair, and rightfully so. All season, their aim has been to step up from World silver to gold. But, the hard fact is that Sui/Han haven’t been at their best this season technically. They’ve made mistakes in every competition, and have lost the LP in their last 2 events. They’re also arriving in the U.S. much later than the Russian pairs. I think they’ll give it their best shot in Boston, and may make the podium due partly to performance quality. But I don’t see them on the top step.

Duhamel-Radford

Duhamel/Radford: Hoping for a big moment

I’ve penciled Duhamel/Radford into 4th place because, as Meagan has discussed in her blog, they’ve been struggling all season with unexpected technical problems. But we can’t forget that Meagan/Eric are reigning world champions, and there’s a lot of pride and determination there. I don’t know if they can overcome the negative momentum of the season, but I feel certain they’ll put up a strong fight in Boston and could well wind up on the podium.

Ksenia Stolbova, Fedor Klimov

Stolbova/Klimov: Will they be ready?  (AP Photo/Manu Fernadez)

I’ve put Stolbova/Klimov in 5th place simply because Fedor’s back problems have been so bad and cost them so much training time. And also because coach Nina Mozer admitted that their participation in Worlds could be in question down to the last minute. If things are that shaky, I don’t see how they can win this thing, or even medal. On the other hand, if Fedor’s recovery has progressed rapidly, anything is possible. If they were healthy, they’d be my co-favorites, along with V/T.

Group 2: Close to the Top

Placements: 6-8

6 Scimeca/Knierim
7 Tarasova/Morozov
8 Peng/Zhang

These 3 pairs have had their ups & downs this season. But their average scores still indicate that the judges see them as a notch above the rest of the field. (Seguin/Bilodeau and Yu/Jin would have been in this group, too, if they were at Worlds.)

Scimeca-Knierim

Scimeca/Knierim: Coming off a career-best performance

Last year, Tarasova/Morozov and Scimeca/Knierim finished 6th and 7th at Worlds. I think they’ll hold those spots again this year. Both teams have the quad twist; both have big lifts and throws. Tarasova/Morozov have better average PCS scores; Scimeca/Knierim have better average base value/TES scores. It’s going to be really close, but I do think Scimeca/Knierim may come ahead this time. S/K have 2 things in their favor. First, they just had the performance of their career at Four Continents; and second, they should get great support from the home crowd in Boston. If S/K can control their nerves and put out something close to what they did in Taipei, I think they’ll be on top in this group. Their LP score at 4CCs is far ahead of T/M’s and P/Z’s top LP scores this season.

Peng/Zhang finished a close 4th at last year’s Worlds. However, they’ve had a difficult season and have only just returned to the ice after several months off due to injury. I see them finishing at the bottom of this group. And, if they make as many mistakes as they did at Rostelecom and GPF, they could actually fall lower.

Group 3: Mid-Level Pairs

Placements: 9-15

9 Kayne/O’Shea
10 Wang/Wang
11 James/Cipres
12 Marchei/Hotarek
13 Iliushechkina/Moscovitch
14 Della Monica/Guarise
15 Moore-Towers/Marinaro

This group, which I think of as the mid-level pairs, is the hardest of all to predict. Each of these teams has quite different strengths and weaknesses, yet their average scores tend to be fairly close, and they can finish in any order at any event.

Kayne-O'Shea-sitspin

Kayne/O’Shea: Ready to shine?  (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Kayne/O’Shea are my pick to win this group. I’m going a bit against the numbers in saying this; Tarah/Danny’s average total scores from the GP/4CCs are not the highest among this group. However, K/O have shown many times this season what strong competitors they are, not only winning U.S. Nationals but also medaling at both their senior Bs. They are quite consistent, especially in the LP, which means their average base value is high. Plus, Tarah/Danny love to perform and typically skate their best in front of a home crowd. I think they’re ready to seize this opportunity and do well in Boston.

WAng-Wang-smile

Wang/Wang:  Their first ISU championship

I’ve picked Wang/Wang to finish 2nd in this group. This Chinese team is not as well known as some of the other mid-level pairs. They have never competed at Worlds or 4CCs, or even at senior Bs, as far as I know. However, when they get opportunities to compete, they tend to do well. Wang/Wang are fairly consistent, especially in the SP, and are well-packaged with lovely programs and costumes. Like the other Chinese teams, their base value is not the highest, but they make up for it with excellent GOE on their technical elements. Wang/Wang reportedly had two clean, solid performances at the Chinese test skates this week to solidify their spot on the Chinese team. So they’re in good shape, and no doubt will be excited for their first appearance at a major championships.

James/Cipres finished 9th at Worlds last year and probably should be on top of this mid-level group. But, although they’re now in their 5th season together, the French pair continues to struggle with consistency and are coming off a disappointing final tune-up at Cup of Tyrol. That said, they did put out their best performances of the season at last year’s Worlds; history could repeat itself.

Marchei-Hotarek

Marchei/Hotarek: A new short program

Marchei/Hotarek have struggled technically this season with a barely-there triple twist and jump errors. Yet, the judges clearly like this team, and their average PCS is among the highest of the mid-level pairs. Their base value is also high due to the SBS 3Lz in their LP; these two factors keep them competitive. They’re coming into Worlds with a new SP; my guess is their PCS will keep them in the middle of this group.

Iliushechkina/Moscovitch had a slow start to their season, and continue to be plagued by odd mistakes and inconsistency. When they hit their elements, they get good GOE. And their PCS is not bad, either; the judges clearly like them as a team. However, their average base value is among the lowest of the mid-tier pairs, because they’ve had a number of elements invalidated and also struggle getting full rotation on jumps. Hopefully they can put together some more consistent performances in Boston.

It’s been a breakthrough season for Della Monica/Guarise. Their performances and scores have shown significant improvement. The key for them will be staying clean on the jumps—they usually get full rotation, but often have mistakes on landings.

MTM.jpg

Moore-Towers/Marinaro: Skating in their first Worlds together

Moore-Towers/Marinaro replaced Seguin/Bilodeau on the Canadian team after Julianne’s unfortunate injury. MT/M have had a rocky season, and the numbers suggest they’ll finish at the bottom of this group.

Group 4: Trying to Make the Long Program

Placements: 16-22

16 Ziegler/Kiefer
17 Danilova/Kamianchuk
18 Butkute/Ermolaev
19 Suto/Boudreau Audet
20 Esbrat/Novoselov
21 Tankova/Krasnopolski
22 Chtchetnina/Scherer

Ziegler/Kiefer should win this group and claim the last qualification spot for the LP. However, they’ll need to focus and avoid the careless mistakes they’ve been making all season, or they’ll be vulnerable. Last year, Z/K missed the cut for the LP, so they should be motivated to do well in the SP here.

Wrap-up

So those are my predictions as of now, but I’m sure there will be quite a few surprises in the actual competition! As I’ve mentioned before, I’m fortunate to be able to attend Worlds in person this year! I hope to be at all the pairs practices, as well as the competition. If time permits, I’ll try to file a practice report on Tuesday.

Note:  If you’re enjoying the articles on The Divine Sport web site, please take just a moment to “like” the site’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/adivinesport/. You can also follow me on Twitter to get updates of new posts: @ClaireCloutier on https://twitter.com.

 

 

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