‘Tis the night before Worlds … and I have pairs predictions! Fair warning: This is a very last-minute look at the pairs field for Worlds, at the end of a very odd season of figure skating (due to the covid-19 pandemic). And, as Kirsten Moore-Towers pointed out in a pre-Worlds teleconference call, we just don’t have a lot of data for this past season. For many pairs at Worlds, this will be their first international competition of the season. So neither they, nor we, really know what to expect. Therefore, take the following predictions with a grain of salt.
These are my thoughts about where the pairs may place in Stockholm.
- Tarasova/Morozov. I feel like this is Evgenia/Vladimir’s moment. If they are ever going to win Worlds, now is the time. They’ve been close before, winning one bronze and two silver medals. Now, it’s the year before the Olympics, and time is running short. They have the maturity, the skills, and the programs. And, after two big victories at Russian Nationals and Channel One Trophy, they have momentum. It’s interesting, because T/M’s top international scores from this season and last season don’t support a victory here. But their domestic Russian wins do. I expect Tarasova/Morozov to lead this event after the short program. From there, it’s all on them. If they can dig in and find the consistency in the long program that has often eluded them in the past, I think they will win.
- Boikova/Kozlovskii. This team were perhaps the favorites to win last year. But they have spent this season sandwiched in between two fellow Russian teams–resurgent Tarasova/Morozov and fast-rising Mishina/Galliamov. Alexandra/Dmitrii seemed to lose a bit of their swagger this season, making a lot of mistakes that they weren’t making last year. B/K are coming into Worlds with a new short program set to “Merry Go Round of Life” from Howl’s Moving Castle. After listening to this music, I think this may be just what B/K need to give them fresh inspiration for Worlds. They’ve had a lot of great performances this season (despite some disappointments), and they have the judges’ respect and can bring in strong PCS. I see them rebounding in Sweden and making the podium.
- Sui/Han. While the top Russian teams have been competing and pushing each other to new heights, reigning World champions Sui/Han have been sitting out the season in China, with Han recovering from surgery. After so many injuries and so many years competing, some may question how many more comebacks Sui/Han have in them and whether they can still compete with the technically strong Russian teams. However, I have learned to never bet against this team. Sui/Han have more experience and more success than any other currently competing pair in the world. No one knows better than them what they need to do to contend. I’m not expecting them to be at their best in Sweden, but I do think they’ll probably be strong enough to medal. And, importantly, they’re coming in with two programs that helped them win their past world titles: “Blues for Klook” and “Rain, In Your Eyes.”
- Mishina/Galliamov. The young Russians have delivered some technically outstanding performances this spring at Channel One Trophy and Russian Cup Final. Their success is powered by their side-by-side triples, which are much more consistent than most pairs’ jumps.. Plus, they even have a triple Salchow/triple Salchow combination in their arsenal. Their throw jumps are also very consistent and high-quality. Given their youth and artistry relative to the other top teams, I see M/G finishing just off the podium. However, if any of the top three falter, they could definitely medal.
- Peng/Jin. The #2 Chinese team looked strong in winning Cup of China, and their Cloud Atlas long program has been well-received by fans and judges alike. However, I think the inconsistency of their side-by-side jumps will probably prevent them from moving much further up the standings, particularly since that is a strong area for both M/G and B/K.
- Knierim/Frazier. The new American team’s impressive victories at Skate America and U.S. Nationals have caught the skating world’s attention and raised expectations for their first Worlds. If they can show the same consistency in Stockholm, they could even potentially place one spot higher.
- Moore-Towers/Marinaro. It’s been a tough year for the Canadians. They lost out on skating at their home Worlds last spring; then this season, all their live competitions got canceled. Plus, Kirsten struggled with a rib injury. Given all this, I think it’s unlikely that MT/M will be able to place much higher than seventh. Their spins, death spirals, skating skills, and presentation are all strong points, and they have good programs. However, jumps were a bit of a question mark at the Skate Canada Challenge virtual event. And their triple twist is a weak point.
- Cain-Gribble/LeDuc. Ashley/Tim were very excited to get the call for Worlds, so I anticipate a lot of energy and attack from them in Stockholm. They have something to prove, and they’re very motivated to help the U.S. get at least 2 spots for the Olympics and possibly a third. They’ve been in this high-pressure situation at Worlds before (trying to get a second slot back for American pairs in 2019), so I think they are ready for this. If all went were to go extremely well, there is a chance of moving up above 8th. However, to make that happen, they will need their best performances.
- Ziegler/Kiefer. We haven’t seen the Austrians compete yet this season. However, as far as I’m aware, they also don’t seem to have suffered any big injuries or setbacks. Therefore, it seems reasonable to expect that they’ll place similar to their last finish at Worlds (10th).
- Hocke/Kunkel. If we looked only at last season’s scores, Hocke/Kunkel would be considerably further down this list. However, the German team has shown steady improvement since their debut season last year and recently scored a very respectable 177.23 total at Challenge Cup, where their elements looked strong. Moreover, Hocke/Kunkel have a strong incentive to place top 10 and get 2 Olympic spots for Germany. If they don’t do so and only get one spot for next year, their chances of earning that spot over Hase/Seegert are probably less than 50/50. Considering that, plus Annika’s prior experience at senior Worlds and Olympics, I expect them to do fairly well.
- Della Monica/Guarise. It seems strange to have the top Italians so low on this list. However, DM/G are coming back from injury and missed out on Grand Prix events this season. At a recent competition at Italy, their lifts looked strong as usual; however, their jumps were weak and their triple twist clearly a work in progress in terms of regaining its usual amplitude. Therefore, I’m not sure we can expect to see their usual level of performance in Stockholm.
- Walsh/Michaud. Evelyn/Trennt were also sidelined with an injury earlier this season and will be making their season debut at Worlds. Solid skating skills and presentation should help them stay in the top 12 or so.
- Chtchetinina/Magyar. The Hungarians continue to show improvement with their elements and recently won bronze at Challenge Cup.
- Miura/Kihara. The Japanese team have not competed yet this season, but showed good technical ability last year.
- Metelkina/Parkman. Although they are a brand-new team, this Georgian couple got good TES scores in their videos submitted to the ISU for Worlds qualification.
So those are my predictions. Looking forward to day 1 of the competition tomorrow and hoping all the pairs do well!!