Unlike the Ladies competition this season, the Pairs field for Worlds is much easier to define, and in a sense, to predict.
The overwhelming favorite will be the German team of Savchenko and Szolkowy. They own the top score this season, posting a 210.72 at the Grand Prix Final, and they’ve looked the most polished and prepared, as well as the most determined to win all season long. They have a maturity to not only their programs, but to their approach to competition that has served them well, and should continue to do so. This team always does something that’s a little different; they push creativity to a new level. And this year, the seem to have found programs that work for their own sense of originality and for the judges watching their every move.
Coming into the event a bit under the radar, the Russian team of Kavaguti and Smirnov have a good chance to take home a medal. This team has been on the rise for a couple seasons now, but never really broken through to the top. Having seen what they had to offer this year, however, that could be about to change. They only competed at one Grand Prix event (Russia), but there they won gold. Their long program is stunning. It is one of my favorite pairs programs of the season. With the time they’ve had since coming in second to the Germans at Europeans (with the second highest score of the season — 203.61), they’ll have had time to improve as well.
Joining them with newly acquired “home ice advantage” are fellow Russians Bazarova/Larionov, and Volosozhar/Trankhov. Bazarova/Larionov posted the fourth best score this season, while Voloszhar/Trankhov topped the field at Russian Nationals, wining the title over the favorites. They have little international experience, but they have all the talent in the world. They could be a surprise. Russian Pairs teams are once again on the rise, and they’ll be represented strongly here before the hometown crowd (with thoughts, no doubt, of being podium-ready by Sochi in 2014).
The early season co-favorites with Savchenko/Szolkowy are the Chinese team of Pang and Tong. They have had a strong season in their own right, although they’ve looked a little shaky throughout. First place finishes at both of their Grand Prix events got them to the Final where they were edged out by the Germans to take home the silver. They came back strong, however, at 4 Continents for gold there. Their season best score of 199.45 has them in third on the list, but we all know that doesn’t necessarily translate to results at Worlds. It’ll be a battle between the top three here, for sure.
Joining the Japanese contingent is the young team of Takahashi/Tran. They squeeze into the top ten international scores this season, but competing on both the Junior and Senior level this season could result in fatigue, especially now that the season has been lengthened by a month.
Then things get a little less obvious and a bit more sentimental. The US and Canadian teams have been nice surprises on the international scene, and they all boast stories that make them great storylines. Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin have been skating very well, of course, in the shadow of the program dedicated to John’s late mom. They skate with such raw passion and they’re driven by something greater than sport — life. They also have their sights set on earning back three spots for the US at next year’s Worlds.
Joining them in that quest are Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig. They debuted a new short program at US Nationals, and I feel they may be one of the few who will have benefited from the extra month to train. That way, they’ll be quite sure of this program and its intricacies, which could serve them well. Of course, Amanda is also recently engaged to Jeremy Barrett — the bronze medalist from US Nationals with then-partner Caydee Denney. The two have since split and Jeremy has retired.
Canadians Moore-Towers/Moscovich, and Duhamel/Radford have both medaled this season internationally, so they’ll likely be duking it out with the Americans and Russians to fill out the top five or six spots. Kirsten and Dylan were the last minute replacements for Jessica Dube and Brice Davison at Skate America who shocked the field by taking silver. Not bad for last minute substitutions! Meagan and Eric are on a mission of their own. Meagan had retired after last season, but that was short lived. Now she’s trying to take her new partnership with Eric to their best Worlds finish yet.
All of these teams have posted scores this season capable of putting them in the top 10 in Moscow. It ultimately comes down to who leaves it all on the ice when it counts.