Tuesday, February 8, 2011

2011 Four Continents Championships: Pairs 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 Pair teams to the competition next week, as will Canada. China is sending their top team, Pang/Tong, but the young dynamos Sui/Han will be absent from the competition. There are a total of 10 teams competing and each of the four countries represented, Canada, China, Japan, and the US, has at least one podium threat.

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) Pang/Tong
2) Yankowskas/Coughlin
3) Moore-Towers/Moscovitch

Although I do not think they've been at their best this season, Qing Pang & Jian Tong will go down as one of the great pair teams of this era. With Shen/Zhao officially retired and Zhang/Zhang's future unsure, Pang/Tong seem to be the last of the great Bin Yao teams standing, at least until he can develop his next flight of pair teams. I've always admired this team for their long lines and grace, but they've had a lot of uncharacteristic falls and mistakes this season. After their long careers they must be exhausted and if they have a strong showing at World this year I suspect they may retire. The only team to beat them this year has been the German team of Savchenko/Szolkowy and as they will not be competing in Taipei, Pang & Tong should have no trouble claiming the title if they can avoid catastrophic mistakes. If anything, this event will be good practice for them on the road to another world medal.
There are about 5 teams after Pang & Tong that fall very close together in terms of season's best scores, but I have to go with recently crowned US Champions Caitlin Yankowskas & John Coughlin. They caught my eye at NHK at the beginning of the season and have continued to impress me over the past few months, including a phenomenal showing as US Nationals last month. For me, they have every quality that makes a great pair team. John is just a pillar of strength and Caitlin floats like a feather and her positions are exquisite. I think this is really their year to make their mark on the international scene and if they can perform the way they did in Greensboro, I think they'll stand next to Pang & Tong on the podium.
Kirsten-Moore Towers & Dylan Moscovitch of Canada are one of my favorite teams to emerge from the Grand Prix season. They had absolutely no expectations for themselves and it was great to see them turn talent and determination into two silver medals and a spot in the Grand Prix Final. I did not see them put two clean programs together all season and they crumbled slightly in the final, but from what I hear, they gave a phenomenal showing at Canadian Nationals. They are in a similar situation to Yankowskas/Coughlin in that they are riding the momentum of  winning their first national title so the showdown between these two teams should be very exciting.
Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barret have been knocking at the door all season and while they didn't bring home any Grand Prix medals, they are going through a rebuilding year after a coaching change and they have improved immensely as artists, particularly Jeremy. I love their programs this year and I only wish they could have been rewarded with an International medal. After an unfortunate fall at US nationals in the short program, they failed to earn a slot on the World team but I think that has left them very hungry and will inspire them to really put together two solid performances. If they skate to the best of their abilities, they'll be in the medal mix with Yankowskas/Coughlin and Moore-Towers/Moscovitch.
Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig have some of the best elements in the world, particularly their lifts, but they're struggled to put together two mistake-free programs in any competition this year, including US nationals where they won a silver despite some jumping errors. Their free skate score is one of the highest internationally, but what kept them from receiving higher total scores was their weaker short program, which they've since changed. They are in a similar situation to Rachael Flatt where they've changed their short program and have yet to receive scores for it from internationals judges. Depending on how well their Sing Sing Sing short program is received and if they can clean up their free skate, they too could be in the medal mix with the Canadians and their fellow Americans.
The final team that I believe to have a shot at the podium in Taipei next week is Narumi Takahashi & Mervin Tran of Japan. It has always surprised me that Japan has not produced great pair teams based on the strength of their singles skaters, but this team is their sole pair team and they are quite good. They competed on both the junior and senior Grand Prix circuits this season and won the Junior Grand Prix Final. Like the Japanese singles skaters, they have fantastic technique and these two are really fun to watch as well. Their scores internationally have been quite similar to those of the American teams competing here and the top Canadian team, but I feel that they need some more time together to really connect as a pair. I personally think experience and maturity will win out in this competition in favor of the Americans or Canadians, but Takahashi & Tran could easily squeeze onto the podium for a medal if they skate two perfect programs.

Other teams competing in the pairs event at the 2011 Four Continents Championships include:

Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford (CAN)
Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers (CAN)
Huibo Dong & Yimingn Wu (CHN)
Yue Zheng & Lei Wang (CHN)


  1. To be honest, while I think Y/C are very elegant for an American pair, Caitlin could work a bit more on her aerial positions.... Same goes Moore-Towers/Moscovitch. And Pang/Tong as well. They have nice long lines but her positions and posture make me cringe so it's hard for me to list them among all-time great pairs. Takahashi/Tran have been getting great scores this season and her positions are fabulous. I think they have a great chance at the podium.

  2. I don't actually think that yankowskas/coughlin will for sure make the podium at four continents. I agree that if they put together 2 good programs they could threaten to land on the podium,but moore-towers/ moscovitch have been very consistent this season. Takahashi/Tran also have been getting great marks, and already are a great young pair team. They also have a great shot at the podium. i'm not positive about my preditions, so we will see.