Figure Skating: From the Boards

A look ahead: Pairs of the GP Series June 5, 2012

Now that we have the Shpilband news out in the open, we can get back to daydreaming about what the upcoming Grand Prix season will hold. Today, it’s all about the Pairs. So let’s jump right in, shall we?

First up, Skate America.

Jessica Dube & Sebastien Wolfe (CAN)
Qing Pang & Jian Tong (CHN)
Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres (FRA)

Stacy Kemp & David King (GBR)
Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov (RUS)
Caydee Denney & John Coughlin (USA)
Gretchen Dolan & Andrew Speroff (USA)
TBA (USA)

Pang/Tong and Volosozhar/Trankov look to be the pack leaders at the season opener. Of course, the Russians are coming off of a magnificent Free Skate at Worlds that would have crowned them champions, had they not crumbled in the Short Program. You know they want to prove that was a fluke!

Don’t take your eyes off Denney and Coughlin, though. Last season was their year to feel each other out, see how things would go, and what they were capable of. This year, they must add technical difficulty and depth to their choreography if they want to keep up with the big kids. They can do it. And if they can do it while maintaining their consistency, look for a handful of podium finishes for these two.

The rest of the field is packed with potential, too. Dube and Wolfe have beautiful elements and lines, but their technique sometimes fails them. Dolan and Speroff ooze talent, and Kemp/King and James/Cipres are pressing towards the Olympic games with growing fan bases.

Let the fireworks begin!

Skate Canada

Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford (CAN)
Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers (CAN)
TBA (CAN)
Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy (GER)
Stefanie Berton & Ondrej Hotareck (ITA)
Katarina Gerboldt & Alexander Enbert (RUS)
Mary Beth Marley & Rockne Brubaker (USA)
Tiffany Vise & Don Baldwin (USA)

At first glance, it’s no surprise Savchenko and Szolkowy will enter this event as the gold medal favorites. They narrowly edged the Russian duo of Volosozhar and Trankov at Worlds, and they have oodles of experience to pull from at the beginning of the season.

However, the battle between Duhamel/Radford and Marley/Brubaker could be interesting. Sure, the Canadians have the edge based on last season. But we all know how much the young American team improved in just one off season together. If they make a similar leap this year, they could be right up there, likely gunning for a couple of GP medals themselves.

This event is, however, a great opportunity for the other teams on the schedule to step up their game and make a run at the podium early in the season.

Cup of China

Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch (CAN)
Qing Pang & Jian Tong (CHN)
Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang (CHN)
Wenjing Sui & Cong Han (CHN)
Narumi Takahashi & Mervin Tran (JPN)
Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov (RUS)
Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimova (RUS)
Caitlin Yankowskas & Joshua Reagan (USA)

This will be the first chance for the new American team of Yankowskas and Reagan to show us what they’re made of. I know we have yet to see anything out of them, but I like the potential this team grings to teh table. Plus, I can’t lie, I’m thrilled to see Caitlin back on competitive ice!

It will be great to see Moore-Towers/Moscovitch back on the ice, too, afer missing out on a chance at Worlds last season. They have a spark that few teams do. If they keep the technique in check, they could threaten here.

As for the rest of the field, Pang/Tong, Sui/Han, Takahashi/Tran, and Kavaguti/Smirnov should provide some intense competition. Each of the teams is capable of winning. And yet, we’ve seen each team have their meltdown moments.

Who will bring it in Shanghai?

Rostelecom Cup

Jessica Dube & Sebastein Wolfe (CAN)
Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers (CAN)
Maylin Hausch & Daniel Wende (GER)
Mari Vartmann & Aaron Van Cleave (GER)
Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov (RUS)
Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov (RUS)
TBA (RUS)
Caydee Denney & John Coughlin (USA)

By now, the top teams will have had a chance to get some feedback on their programs, and see just what they need to do to score the big points. Volosozhar/Trankov could be looking for their second GP gold. Certainly, if their past is any indication, that is well within reach.

Again, keep an eye on Denney/Coughlin. But Bazarova and Larionov have a tendency to hang around the medal stand. We could see great showings from the Canadian teams, too.

Trophee Bompard

Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford (CAN)
Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang (CHN)
Daria Popova & Bruno Massot (FRA)
TBA (FRA)
Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy (GER)
Stefanie Berton & Ondrej (ITA)
Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov (RUS)
Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimova (RUS)

This will be the first time we see Savchenko/Szolkowy against Kavaguti/Smirnov. Last season, these two teams seemed to be building quite a rivalry, but injuries as well as the emergence of Volosozhar/Trankov kept it from becoming a major storyline.

However, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it come around again here.

Duhamel and Radford will skate with a great medal chance in Paris, as well.

Plus, we’ll be able to predict some of the Final spots after the event concludes.

NHK Trophy

Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch (CAN)
Wenjing Sui & Cong Han (CHN)
Mari Vartmann & Aaron Van Cleave (GER)
Narumi Takahashi & Mervin Tran (JPN)
Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov (RUS)
Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir (USA)
Lindsey Davis & Mark Ladwig (USA)
Mary Beth Marley & Rockne Brubaker (USA)

Hey, look!Another new American team! This time, it’s Lindsey Davis and Mark Ladwig. No expectations here, really. Just getting the duo out on international ice will be a good start.

Again we’ll see a showdown between Sui/Han and Takahashi/Tran. Both young, both immensely talented, but a bit erratic. But, we could be watching what will be a battle for many years to come.

Marley/Brubaker will get another chance at a medal here, too.

Then, it’s time for the Final!

Which teams do you expect to have a break-out year?

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