Monday, November 7, 2011

2011 NHK Trophy: Pairs Preview

NHK is shaping up to be a great pairs event based on the performance of each of these teams earlier this season. All but one team has done at least a Grand Prix or a Senior B thus far in 2011. The competition will be tough and though Gold and Silver seem to be wrapped up, I see about four teams in a race for the Bronze. The pairs take the ice for their short program at 2:45 a.m. EST on Friday November 11th with the free skate at 12:05 a.m. on Saturday November 12th.
Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy (GER) come into this event with a win at Skate America under their belts, despite some major mistakes in the short program. They went for a throw triple axel and fell, but if it is not consistent yet, they may not go for it in this event as they'll have stiffer competition. Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov (RUS) technically won Cup of China with a higher score than the Germans at Skate America, but I believe that in head to head competition the Germans will come out victorious. But, if they do go for harder tricks and fail, the grace and lyricism of the Russians may win the day. Now to the 4-way battle for Bronze. I actually like Caydee Denney & John Coughlin (USA) in this event because they've been nothing but consistent since they teamed up and their current top score is better than the rest of the teams in the hunt for Bronze. They may not be 100% on their precision and unison yet, but they are landing their elements which is a big step for a new pair. Narumi Takahashi & Mervin Tran (JPN) are one of my favorite young pairs and they have some amazing elements with a lovely soft quality about them, but Narumi struggles with consistency on her jumps and throws, which kept them off the podium at Skate Canada. If they go completely clean in both programs they should be on the podium, but I don't know what the chances are, especially under the pressure of the home crowd. Lubov Iliushechkina & Nodari Maisuradze (RUS) are another of my favorite pairs, and I'm enamored with their A Chorus Line free skate, but they are prone to giving away precious points with jumping errors and lack of presentation. Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek (ITA) are a surprise breakout team this season, having medaled at two Senior B events and even they could grab Bronze if they go clean and others make mistakes. Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir (USA) and Natasha Purich & Raymond Schultz (USA) are slightly behind the rest of the field here, but a strong showing could help them improve their confidence and their World Ranking.

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

Competitive History:

Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek (ITA)-1st at 2011 Cup of Nice, 2nd 2011 O Nepela, 10th 2011 Worlds, 5th 2011 Europeans, 1st 2010 NRW Trophy, 6th 2010 Rostelecom Cup, 2nd 2010 Nebelhorn Trophy; 167.86 at 2011 Cup of Nice

Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir (USA)-4th 2011 O Nepela, 6th 2010 Skate America, 4th 2010 Skate Canada; 159.85 at 2010 Skate Canada 

Caydee Denney & John Coughlin (USA)-4th at 2011 Skate America3rd 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy, PB: 175.94 (Yankowskas/Coughlin) at 2011 Worlds; PB: 175.40 at 2011 Skate America

Lubov Iliushechkina & Nodari Maisuradze (RUS)-5th at 2011 Skate Canada, 3rd 2011 O Nepela, 1st 2011 Winter Universiade, 4th 2010 Grand Prix Final, 4th 2010 Cup of China, 1st 2010 Skate Canada; PB: 177.44 at 2010 Grand Prix Final

Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov (JPN)-1st at 2011 Cup of China, 4th 2011 Worlds, 2nd 2011 Europeans, 1st 2010 Rostelecom Cup, 3rd 2010 Worlds, 4th 2010 Winter Olympics; PB: 213.15 at 2010 Europeans

Natasha Purich & Raymon Schultz (CAN)-5th 2011 World Juniors, 7th 2010 JGP Final, 3rd 2010 JGP Czech, 3rd 2010 JGP England; PB: 131.77 at 2010 JGP Czech 

Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy (GER)-1st at 2011 Skate America, 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

Narumi Takahashi & Mervin Tran (JPN)-4th at 2011 Skate America, 9th 2011 Worlds, 7th 2011 Four Continents, 1st 2010 JGP Final, 2nd 2010 Cup of Russia, 3rd 2010 NHK Trophy, 2nd 2010 JGP Germany, 2nd 2010 JGP England; PB: 169.41 at Skate Canada 

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