Friday, December 3, 2010

2010 ISU Grand Prix Final: Pairs Preview

 In order to make informed predictions for the Grand Prix Final next weekend, and also just for the love of watching great figure skating, I'm reviewing the tapes of the Grand Prix qualifiers. I'm not going to give complete commentary as that can be found on my other posts, but rather I'll be giving a summary of the programs and discussing how they grew and evolved from the skaters' first Grand Prix assignment to their second. You can catch the pairs in their short program at 7:35 am on December 10th and their free skate at 7:40 am on December 11th as streams the Grand Prix Final live from Beijing. I will be live-blogging both events right here

My Final Predictions:
1) Savchenko/Szolkowy (Germany)
2) Pang/Tong (China)
3) Bazarova/Larionov (Russia)
4) Moore-Towers/Moscovitch (Canada)
5) Sui/Han (China)
6) Iliushechkina/Maisuradze (Russia)

1) Savchenko/Szolkowy: 15(SA)+15(TEB)=30             (395.58)
    SA: 63.99(SP)+133.71(FS)=197.70
  •  This is our first time seeing this team after a disappointing 2009-2010 season and they look very solid in this short program with good speed and height on the jumps and throws.This is a very European looking routine and could not be more different from that of Pang and Tong, the other top contenders. They have some unison issues on their spins but that is probably because the program is new. We should see a more polished short program in Paris at their second Grand Prix. Overall this program didn't do much for me but then again, I have never been a fan of their performance quality, or lack thereof.
  • This is an interesting musical choice to do a free skate to The Pink Panther but apparently their goal is to be known as more of a performance team rather than just technical skaters. I don't love this team, I never have, but I do like the choreography of this program. They have a few unison issues, but that is typical for the first competition with a new program. I like the composition of this program, specifically the fact that they are one of the few teams that doesn't begin with the split triple twist. Aliona seems to be struggle with her jumps, doubling triples in the short and in the long. She also has amazing flexibility. This music, in my opinion, is more appropriate for a short program as it is so repetitive and the themes don't really change that much.
    TEB: 66.65(SP)+131.23(FS) =197.88
  • This program still isn't doing much for me choreographically, but I must admit that it shows great technique and it is much stronger than it was at Skate America. It looks much  more precise and much more polished.
  • This free skate is starting to grow on me, though I still think the music is too repetitive. Their first throw looked stronger than at Skate America, but their spins still need some work in terms of unison. They do a weird death spiral position which I normally  hate, but in this case I like it because it fits the character. Aliona shows some amazing flexibility in her spin and spiral positions . I think they are engaging more with the performance here that they did at Skate America and I actually enjoyed it. It is nice to see some personality from Aliona. With total scores of about 10 points higher than those of Pang and Tong, the next highest qualifiers, this team should have no trouble winning The Grand Prix Final unless they have a major disaster.
2) Pang/Tong: 15(NHK)+15(CC)=30                             (366.87)
    NHK: 67.10(SP)+122.27(FS)=189.37
  • This is a beautiful and elegant short program from the world champions as always. They have a wonderful connection to one another and to the music that can only come from maturity. With the retirement of Shen/Zhao, they are the top pair team in China and it shows. There were some unison issues on their side-by-side spins and they finished a hair after the music but that may just be because the program is new and they are getting used to it. 
  • This is a lovely free program as always, but with issues in synchronization and side by side jumps, I don't know how long they will be able to hold off the younger teams that are coming up the ranks. They do have maturity and experience on their side, and now they they have been able to come out as an off-ice couple, I think their connection on the ice is stronger. They no longer have the speed of the younger teams, but they certainly have the elegance.
    CC: 60.62(SP)+116.88(FS)=177.50
  • This is a beautifully elegant short and it couldn't be any more different from the German team's athletic, dramatic short program. They seem to be struggling a bit this season with jumps, which is something quite rare for them. Dare I say that they are showing their age? They are still gorgeous as ever but there are younger teams like Sui/Han right at home in China that are really pushing the technical envelope. They even seem to be struggling with unison on spins. I love this team and I hope the issue is just that the programs are new and not that they are slipping in their technique.
  • Again, there are some jump misses here in the free skate with Pang missing the entire combination. I'm not really sure what is happening with them this season-they just don't look like themselves. I think they are such a gorgeous team, and much prefer them to the Germans, so I hope that they can iron out their issues and make a strong showing at the Final. I am almost certain they will medal there, but I don't know the color. That will depend on how their practices go in the long break between Cup of China and the Final. They will have home field advantage as the Final is being held in Beijing.
3) Bazarova/Larionov: 13(NHK)+13(TEB)=26               (356.83)
    NHK: 60.16(SP)+113.67(FS)=173.83
  • The Secret Garden theme is a gorgeous piece of music for this short program, particularly for such a lyrical, elegant team. They have great speed across the ice and wonderful unison. She is also beautifully stretched out in the lifts and the death spiral. The whole program has a wonderful flow to it and is just beautifully composed.
  • This free skate is set to The Man in the Iron Mask which makes me think of Alexei Yagudin. They seem to be very strong singles skaters while also having strong pair elements. They are a very musical team and this choreography utilizes every crescendo and swell of the music. There are some minor unison issues, but I think those issues will be ironed out later in the season. They have some lovely lift positions that show strength on both parts as well as good height on their throws and wonderful speed across the ice. They have wonderful exits into their lifts that look almost like ice dance lifts.
    TEB: 64.18(SP)+118.82(FS)=183.00
  • I loved this program so much at NHK and it looks like it has developed even more over the 5-week break they've had. Their lines are exquisite and they just exude elegance. They are also very  young at 17 and 24, so they have a lot of room to grow in the sport.
  • I loved this program at NHK as well and they look even better here, despite a fall on a throw. This is a "winning piece of music" if you know what I mean. I can completely see them making the podium at the Grand Prix Final after winning two silvers at their events. They hit such lovely positions in their spins and lifts and overall, they are just gorgeous to watch. They are just so Russian and I have missed that since Totmianina and Marinin retired.
4) Moore-Towers/Moscovitch: 13(SC)+13(SA)=26        (346.40)
    SC: 53.68(SP)+117.24(FS)=170.92
  • I think Zorba's Dance is the perfect  music for a short program as it is very energetic and it builds throughout. This is such a fun athletic team and they were certainly the surprise of the Grand Prix season this year. They really didn't find their footing until the free skate here in Canada, so this doesn't show how good they are, but they really do improve by Skate America in a big way.
  • In terms of choreography and performance, this Les Miserables program is my favorite pairs free program of the season. Perhaps they don't have the technical level and precision of the top teams yet, but their speed and musicality is fantastic. They are wonderfully innovative in their lifts and Dylan is just so strong, even lifting her from a lunging position on the ice. I could watch this program every day and I cannot wait to see it at the Final. They get a standing ovation from the crowd at home here and I personally am on the verge of tears.
    SA: 61.64(SP)+113.84(FS)=175.48
  • This program seems much stronger than it did at Skate Canada and has even more speed and energy. I love how they do all of their lifts from the lunge position as the extreme height change makes them more dramatic. 
  • This free program was so dynamic at Skate Canada so we'll see if they can bring that back here. I don't know that they have the fire they had at home, but this is still very strong. They had a much stronger short program here so the total score should still be higher giving them good momentum going into the Grand Prix Final. This is a very special team and if they can stay injury-free they will have a bright future. In my predictions, I have them placing 4th at the Grand Prix Final, but they totally have the potential to make the podium.
5) Iliusechkina/Maisuradze: 15(SC)+9(CC)=24             (333.49)
    SC: 60.72(SP)+110.68(FS)=171.40
  • This young Russian team is so athletic and dynamic and this short program is power-packed. I love that opening spin lift as it sets a great tone for the program. They use every ounce of this music and wow do they move quickly across the ice. They definitely have that signature Russian quality which I am so happy to see return to the sport. She gets great height on the throws and the lifts too.
  • This free skate is much softer and more elegant than their short program and I think the two programs show some nice variety in what they are able to accomplish. They are very young and do not yet have the elegance of some of the Russian pairs of the past, but they show promise and I think they will get there. This program isn't really doing it for me in terms of drama and performance, but I hope it will be stronger by the Final.
    CC: 55.85(SP)+106.24(FS)=162.09
  • This is my second time seeing this program and The Marriage of Figaro is such catchy music. I love their speed and I think this short shows off their skills rather than their more elegant free skate. I would prefer to see them establish themselves as the speedy athletic team. They need to concentrate on their unison in their  jumps to really achieve the "two shall skate as one" look. I think they'll make a strong showing at the Final, though I do not predict them to medal.
  • As I said in the short, I would like to see them focus on what they do well and create programs that show off their speed and athleticism. This more elegant program is nice enough, but  I think they are struggling in the performance elements. I also wish he would lose the neck scarf as I believe it to be distracting. I am not a fan of the composition of this program in that the throws and more dramatic elements are not placed on the musical crescendos as they should be. They, along with Pang & Tong finished their season after only the 3rd Grand Prix so they've had a lot of time to practice and perfect these programs. Though I don't expect them to make the podium,  I do believe they will put up two very strong programs at the Final. Both times I've seen this free skate, they've finished after the music so I hope they'll work on that.
6) Sui/Han: 13(CC)+11(SA)=24                                     (341.54)
    CC: 59.58(SP)+111.89(FS)=171.47
  •  There is nothing else to say about this team other than "wow". Their speed is awesome and their energy is infectious. I think they are certainly the future of pairs skating and as much as I hate making these predictions, watch out Sochi 2014. Their choreography is fantastic and they are such performers. He catches and edge and falls and pulls her down with him, but otherwise this is a fantastic short program.
  • This whimsical Charlie Chaplin program really suits them well. They lack the clean lines and precision of some of the older teams, but at 15 & 18, what a feat to qualify for the  Senior Grand Prix Final when they are still competing on the Junior Grand  Prix as well. They struggle with their jumps in this program, but I love the composition and choreography. They are both fantastic performers, but she is just such a doll and so fun to watch.
    SA: 57.53(SP)+112.54(FS)=170.07
  • I love everything about this short program and I think it is wonderfully appropriate for their age and their abilities. They remind me of American Ice Dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani in that they have very solid technique, but are also beyond their years in performance quality.
  • She landed a throw quad salchow here after a huge fall in practice and though it was two-footed, they will still get a lot of credit for it. She is such a fighter to land these big throws after getting such amazing height on them. I would love to see her stretch out her positions a bit more in the lifts and point her toes harder, but those are things that will come with maturity. She is such a firecracker! Though they may not make the podium, they will certainly make a huge splash at the Grand Prix Final.
1A) Takahashi/Tran: 11(NHK)+13(CR)=24                       (321.13)
2A) Yankowskas/Coughlin: 9(NHK)+11(CC)=22               (321.60)
3A) Lawrence/Swiegers: 11(SC)+7(CR)=18                     (315.82)

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