Figure Skating: From the Boards

A Look Ahead: Grand Prix Final (Part 2) December 8, 2011

The drama has already begun from Quebec City. Chan is taking some heat for his comments about his Chinese heritage, Mao Asada unfortunately has withdrawn (to return to her critically ill mother in Japan).

With the event now less than 12 hours from beginning, let’s take a quick look at the Pairs and Dance events.

Dance

Much ado has been made about the showdown between training mates Virtue/Moir and Davis/White. Perhaps, rightly so.

The Canadian Olympic Champs Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have had two solid (and easy) wins thus far this season. They have the advantage over their competitors in the short dance, and they’ll need it to take down the Americans. Their Funny Face free dance isn’t their strongest ever, but they keep making improvements. I want to see them 100% in the moment because that’s the biggest strength of a program like this — the character.

One thing's for sure -- some spicy sambas will heat up the ice!

If they don’t live up to that, Meryl Davis and Charlie White will gladly pounce on the opportunity. They’ve had some issues with the short dance this year, but even then their scores have been very close to Virtue and Moir’s. Plus, their free dance is spectacular. I love what they’ve done with the music, the classic route they’ve taken, and the quality that oozes from every move. Yes, I love this program. But I think it works for them because it highlights their strengths. And, it just might give them gold.

Nathalie Pechelat and Fabian Bourzat always seem to be right on the brink of greatness. Still, they can’t quite keep up with the big guns. Personally, I felt they had better programs last year. However, they certainly had more polish and attack at their second event than the first. That’s a plus. They look good to medal here.

Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev have had a bit of a yo-yo season. Good skates, and rough skates. They have the potential to pull in strong scores, but there always seems to be something off with these two.

They’ll have a battle on their hands with Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. These two are having an impressive season. No, they haven’t won every event they’ve entered. But they’ve made marked improvements since their first event. That’s just what you want in a long season. They may be playing this just right (plus, I love their FD.).

Then there’s the Suibutanis. I have a soft spot for these two. Always have. However, this season they aren’t quite matching up to the (admittedly high) expectations I had for them. Their programs are beautiful, no doubt. But their technical content isn’t on par with their top competitors.

Podium:

Davis/White
Virtue/Moir
Fabian/Bourzat

Pairs

Again, we have quite the battle on our hands.

Reigning World Champs Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy may be packing that throw triple axel. But, the two times they’ve tried it this season, it hasn’t worked out too kindly for them. Their programs are strong, their elements are strong. But if they go too big, they might take the gold out of their own hands.

Trying to regain the upper hand, Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov are searching for their own consistency. I think their short program is one of the most artistically stunning of the pairs season thus far, and I was a big fan of their long program last year. I just want to see the same committment to the choreography in the later as there is in the first. That, and clean elements.

The pairs competition is sure to bring the drama between the top four!

Also in the gold medal mix are Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. After Worlds this year, I was fully convinced they were going to be the ones to beat this year. And it started out that way. But, they haven’t put together clean enough programs often enough to be considered favorites. Still, they have what it takes.

There’s very little room for error among the top three.

Then, there’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. I adore them and the spark they bring to the ice. They have such a solid grasp on what they want for this season and they seem determined to reach every goal. They’ll be fighting for a podium spot, for sure.

Standing in their way is China’s Zhang and Zhang. Where the Canadians have spark, the Zhangs have power. They follow in the Chinese tradition of strong elements, but they don’t often skate perfectly clean or with much passion. They may still have the edge over the Canadians here, but only if they clean things up from earlier in the year.

Don’t forget young Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran. I don’t expect that this is their time to medal. But it is a good chance to see how they match up to the top teams in the world. They have the best polish of the young teams and some technical elements that are spectacular. I’m looking forward to seeing them develop.

Podium:

Savchenko/Szolkowy
Kavaguti/Smirnov
Volosozhar/Trankov

Due to the problem of having a “real job,” I will likely miss the short programs entirely. However, I’ll catch up as quickly as possible, and be ready for some live twitter action come Saturday!

Good luck to all the competitors in Quebec City.

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