The pairs competition has pretty much leveled off in years past, consisting of two teams from Russia and Germany trading championships. However, it’s the Russians who have lunged ahead in the ISU standings due to the misfortune of the German team due to injury. The story of this competition is, “can they regain the upper hand over the Russians just in time for a Gold Medal?” Early indications are they can, but will it last?
Analysis: For much of their career together, the Russian team of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov have finished in 1st place. The exceptions were in 2011 and 2012, where they’ve placed 2nd in the World Championships and in Grand Prix Final, where they finished 2nd in 2012 and just last month in Budapest, Hungary.
Their main rivals, the German team of Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy have won the World Championships 4 of the last 6 years. It was only through Savchenko’s illness and subsequent withdrawal from Grand Prix competition in the 2012-13 season that the Russians were able to take advantage. Volosozhar and Trankov currently sit at #1 in the ISU standings with Savchenko & Szolkowy close behind in 2nd place.
The Italian team of Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek recovered nicely from a poor showing at Skate America to a big victory at Skate Canada this fall. They’ve managed a personal best (195.61) at the European Championships this season. The long-time team of Qing Pang & Jian Tong have fallen under the radar this season, finishing 1st at Trophee Bompard, but taking a step back with a 3rd place finish in the GP Final. The Canadian team of Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford have had some pretty good showings the last two year, with a 2nd place finish at last year’s worlds and winning the Four Continents in 2013.
The Russians have two other teams that could threaten the balance and end up with a sweep at the podium. Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov returned to form after the couple missed the 2013 European Championships due to a hand injury and finished 2nd at Nationals and 3rd at 2014 Europeans. Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov pulled off a stunner, winning at Russian Nationals and earning a spot in Sochi.
Teams to Watch: The Canadians have another team that may make news. Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch have improved their standings in the ISU to 8th in the world with strong showings at Skate America (2nd), Rostelecom Cup (3rd) and their second place finish at nationals.
Other teams that will look to make the free skate are Japan’s Narumi Takahashi & Ryuichi Kihara; France’s Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres and Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir of the United States, who continue to fall back in experience.
Prediction: The practice groups pair the Canadians, the Germans and the Italians together. That gives Volosozhar and Trankov a pairing with their fellow teammates, Bazarova & Larionov; China’s Pang & Tong and Canadians Moore-Towers & Moscovitch. Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy have indicated they want to end their careers in Sochi with a Gold Medal. Their chances of that may have improved with their victory at Europeans last month.
However, Volosozhar and Trankov will be coming off a huge win in the World Team event and will have the advantage of skating for the home crowd. That leaves the fight for who will finish third to three teams and a thrilling finish.
Gold – Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov (RUS)
Silver – Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy (GER)
Bronze – Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek (ITA)
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