Monday, February 7, 2011

2011 Four Continents Championships: Ice Dance Preview

The 2011 Four Continents Championship kicks off next week from Chinese Taipei.. In the past the US has not sent its top flight to this event, but the ISU has been encouraging federations to send their World championship team in an effort to make this event an equivalent of the European Championships. The US will be sending their top 3 Ice Dance teams to the competition next week, as will Canada. There are a total of 13 teams competing and if all goes according to plan, the US and Canada should sweep the top 6 spots.

Here are my podium predictions, and I will update with my fantasy skating picks as soon as USFSA opens up the selection for this event:

1) Davis/White
2) Virtue/Moir
3) Shibutani/Shibutani

Meryl Davis & Charlie White are poised to take the title in this event. They have not lost all season, winning two Grand Prix events, the Grand Prix Final, and US Nationals, but they also have not been challenged. Because the rest of the field is improving and Davis and White have been scoring almost all level 4s and near perfect components scores, there is not a lot of room for them to grow, so I look for the gap to close a bit at the event with Meryl and Charlie still finishing on top. Their programs are both looking very solid this season and they have so much confidence at this point in the season that a victory here would be just one step away from claiming the world title in March.
Davis & White may not have had much competition this season, but ready to spoil their efforts are their training mates and friends Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, debuting new programs in their first competition of the season. After Tessa required surgery, the team had to withdraw from the Grand Prix and Canadian Nationals. Though it is a tall order to come back in the second to last major event of the season and beat a team that has dominated, if anybody can do it it's Tessa & Scott. Though they haven't competed the short dance yet, their coaches Zoueva & Shpilband now have experience in what the judges are looking for in this event from the feedback and scores their other teams have gotten. I have high expectations for this team and I'm expecting to be wowed. Don't get me wrong, I still believe Davis & White will win, but I suspect it will be close.
I may be going out on a limb here, but my gut tells me that Maia & Alex Shibutani of the US are going to take the final spot on the 4 Continents podium along with their older training mates. They have been improving like wildfire and have beaten some top teams this year.While I believe all scores from the US Nationals are inflated, there is no denying that they gave two world class performances. I think the momentum and the silver medal from Nationals will give them great confidence going into this event and if they perform as well as we've seen them, they'll be tough to keep off the podium. They'll have to put up a season's best total score, but I truly think they can do it and a medal here would give them yet another confidence boost going into worlds.
While I think most people would agree with my predictions for the top two, many probably have Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier, the new Canadian national champions and Grand Prix Final bronze medalists in 3rd at this event. I think they'll have a strong showing, but I'm putting them in 4th and here is why. The Shibutanis were only 4 points behind this team at Skate America, and the young Americans have improved by leaps and bounds since then. Also, I've seen Vanessa & Paul struggle in the short dance (at the Grand Prix Final) while the Shibutanis have sailed through their short dance ever since the costume-related fall at NHK trophy. Also, I think Crone & Poirier's Eleanor Rigby Free Dance seemed unique at the beginning of the season but the novelty is beginning to wear off, at least in my opinion. In other words, I think the Shibutanis have more staying power because their great scores this season are coming from solid training and technique while Crone & Poirier seem to have gotten a boost from their free dance and its renowned choreography, Christopher Dean.
As I've said above in not so many words, I believe this ice dance competition will come down to three distinct battles among the top six. Davis/White v. Virtue/Moir, the Shibutanis v. Crone/Poirier, and Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje v. Chock/Zuerlein for 5th and 6th place. I think Weaver/Poje, the recently crowned Canadian silver medalists will take the third battle based on the strength of their short dance. Theirs is my favorite short dance of the season and I think their music choices suit them perfectly. I think what has kept them from reaching the upper echelon of ice dance this season is their free dance. It hasn't been getting the highest scores and they can't seem to perform it in competition without mistakes or bobbles, however small they may be.
Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein are my absolute favorite ice dance team and as much as it pains me to say it, I see them finishing at the bottom of this 6-way USA vs. Canada match-up. They have not beaten any of these other teams all season in competition and they have the lowest scores of the bunch. They put together two solid programs last week to win the US national bronze medal and were finally able to eliminate the mistakes that plagued them at their Grand Prix events. It any of the above teams make mistakes, they could capitalize, but if everybody else skates cleanly, I'm afraid this will not be the year for my team to win a 4 continents medal.

Aside from the 6 headliners, the other teams competing next week in Taipei are as follows:

Borounov/Borounov (AUS)
O'Brien/Merriman (AUS)
Guan/Wang (CHN)
Huang/Zheng (CHN)
Yu/Wang (CHN)
Kucherenko/Adoniev (KAZ)
Bruhns/Westenberger (MEX)


  1. The Shibutanis had problems at Skate America with their short dance as well.

  2. I would so love to see Madison and Greg on the podium but they have tougher competition here, alas. It would be funny if they managed to end up fourth (and your podium remained the same) to have the training mates all at the top :-P

    I really hope someone shows this or has videos at least. It looks like icenetwork won't have it. I did email Universal Sports but so far no reply :-(

  3. I'm sure the Shibutani's little mess up in the Skate America SD was nothing but a freak accident. They are so strong in the footwork, so I doubt they will continue to have trouble with that. They showed it at Skate America.

  4. I've also become a fan of Chock/Zuerlein this season. They have a fun free dance that's quite different from the usual saccharine and bland material that Z/S keep churning out. The Shibutanis are wonderfully skilled but I'm not a fan just yet. I would like to see less sweetness and for Maia to bring out her inner diva, that's what ice dancing is all about.

  5. I agree with all the podium predictions. Davis/White have had time to experiment with the sd this season and what the judges are looking for. i have not seen virtue/moir for a very long time now so it will be interesting to see how they do. even though i know the scores from nationals were inflated, the shibutanis did beat davis/white technically(they were both judged on the same scale)