Sunday, October 16, 2011

2011 Skate America: Pairs Preview

This pairs event won't be much of a competition for the the top spot, but it's going to be a dog fight for the rest of the medals. I'll be live blogging ever moment so check in with me 9:55 pm EST this Saturday for the short program and on Sunday at 4:00 pm for the free skate.

3-time and reigning World Champions Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy (GER) should easily run away with this title. They are so far above the rest of this field that they'll be using the event as a way to test out their new programs in front of the judges rather than worrying about the competition. Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov (RUS) are a good bet for Silver because they are gorgeous when their programs are clean, though Vera has been known to have problems on her jumps. Caydee Denney & John Coughlin (USA), the much-hyped new pair made a strong debut at Nebelhorn Trophy and beat Bazarova & Larionov in the short program, though their weaknesses were highlighted when the Russians blew them away in the free and knocked them into 3rd. They are a very athletic pair and have a lot of drive and enthusiasm, but their polish and chemistry is still lacking and will be until they get some more experience together under their belts.  Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang (CHN) are a true wild card because nobody has seen them skate in over a year. In their prime, 06-09, they were World medalists and Olympic medalists, but they've fizzled out since then and rumor has it, the once tiny Dan has gone through a growth spurt which can ruin pair elements.  Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch (CAN) won a surprise Silver medal here last year but fizzled out later in the season. They have some great tricks but are very rough around the edges and have had consistency issues. They'll need another high-scoring free skate like Les Miserables last season to break win another medal. Maylin Hausch & Daniel Wende (GER) are not to be counted out either and have been steadily improving. They are not at the level of their countrymen but they did win a surprise Bronze on the Grand Prix last season. Mary-Beth Marley & Rockne Brubaker (USA) are another wild card because they impressed us all with a 4th place at US Nationals and then fell apart last year at Four Continents. Mary-Beth is still new to pairs skating, but I'm expecting more from them now that they've been together for about a year and a half. They aren't in the medal hunt, but they can set themselves up for the rest of the season but skating cleanly and impressing the judges. Tiffany Vise & Don Baldwin (USA) debuted at Nebelhorn this season and weren't too shabby.They are an older team and won't have their sites set on medals or titles, but it is great for them to just get out there and get some International exposure.

My Podium Predictions:
1) Savchenko & Szolkowy (GER)
2) Bazarova & Larionov (RUS)
3) Denney & Coughlin (USA)

My USFSA Fantasy Picks:
A) Savchenko & Szolkowy (GER)
B) Denney & Coughlin (USA)
C) Marley & Brubaker (USA)

Competitive History:

Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov (RUS)-2nd 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy, 5th 2011 Worlds, 3rd 2011 Europeans, 5th 2010 Grand Prix Final, 2nd 2010 Trophee Eric Bompard, 2nd 2010 NHK Trophy, 1st 2010 Nebelhorn Trophy; PB: 188.24 at 2011 Europeans 

Caydee Denney & John Coughlin (USA)-3rd 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy, PB: 175.94 (Yankowskas/Coughlin) at 2011 Worlds; PB: 62.73 at 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy

Maylin Hausch & Daniel Wende (GER)-4th 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy, 12th 2011 Worlds, 6th 2011 Europeans, 1st 2011 Bavarian Open, 3rd 2010 Trophee Eric Bompard, 1st 2010 Ice Challenge, 7th 2010 NHK Trophy, 5th 2010 Nebelhorn Trophy; PB: 157.42 at 2010 Trophee Eric Bompard

Mary Beth Marley & Rockne Brubaker (USA)-8th 2011 Four Continents, 1st 2011 Nestle Cup; PB: 144.46 at 2011 Four Fontinents

Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch (CAN)-8th 2011 Worlds, 5th 2011 Four Continents, 6th 2010 Grand Prix Final, 2nd 2010 Skate America, 2nd 2010 Skate Canada; PB: 175.48 at 2010 Skate America

Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy (GER)-1st 2011 Worlds, 1st 2011 Europeans, 1st 2010 Grand Prix Final, 1st 2010 Trophee Eric Bompard, 1st 2010 Skate America, 2nd 2010 Worlds, 3rd 2010 Winter Olympics; PB: 217.85 at 2011 Worlds

Tiffany Vise & Don Baldwin (USA)-7th 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy, 8th 2011 US Nationals, 2nd 2010 Ice Challenge; PB: 165.76 (Vise/Trent) at 2007 Trophee Eric Bompard

Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang (CHN)-5th 2010 Worlds, 5th 2010 Winter Olympics, 6th 2009 Grand Prix Final; PB: 197.82 at 2008 Worlds

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