Golden Skate

2010 World Figure Skating Championships: Ice Dance Preview

While the pairs and men divisions will be without the Olympic gold medalists, the dance competition is returning both the gold and silver medalists for the competition in Torino.

Notable omissions from the roster include reigning World Champions and Olympic bronze medalists Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, 2006 Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, and 2008 World Champions Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder. Even with such star power not competing in Torino, the competition should prove to be quite spirited from top to bottom.

Fresh off of their Olympic triumph, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir head to Torino as the favorites to win their first World Championships crown which would complete their collection of World Championships medals. Though Virtue and Moir won the competition in Vancouver quite handily over their rivals and friends Meryl Davis and Charlie White from the United States, it will be an interesting match up nevertheless.

Virtue and Moir have always been strong technical skaters, but this season, they have come into their own in terms of style and presentation which has put them on the top of three out of four podiums this season. Winning in Torino could mark the end of a brilliant partnership that is just starting to soar.

“Since we started skating together, we’ve taken it one year at a time,” Virtue explained in a pre-event press conference. “After the (2006) Olympics, we made the commitment to push on to Vancouver and the focus has been so intense on Vancouver and these world championships. So it’s mentally hard to think much beyond that. I think we’ll need some time.”

Anything less than the World title would be seen as a disappointment for Virtue and Moir, but the can’t rest on their laurels as their training partners are pushing to call that title their own.

After the most successful fall season of their young career, Davis and White headed to Vancouver as perhaps the slight favorites to win the Olympic title. But in Vancouver, the American champions could not overcome their training mates, and had to settle for silver. That loss, the only one for Davis and White this season, could prove to be the catalyst that not only lifts them to their first World Championships medal, but possibly to the title in Torino.

Davis and White must come out fighting in the compulsory dance, the Golden Waltz, in order to have a shot at defeating their training mates, though they have not competed the dance in an international competition all season.

The Grand Prix Final champions must have a lead over Virtue and Moir heading into the free dance to have any shot at the gold medal, but they are a virtual lock to make the podium.

Three teams will try to take advantage of the withdrawals in the competition to earn their first World Championships medal in Torino.

The inside edge might go to Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali from Italy, who will not only skate on home ice, but also are riding the momentum of their most successful season thus far.

A silver medal at the European Championships was followed by a fifth place finish in Vancouver, and the Italian champions will have the crowd support behind them that could help to propel them to the podium.

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat from France also have a realistic shot at standing on the podium, but they have to come out of the gates fighting from the very start of the competition. At the Olympics the duo struggled with the Tango Romantica compulsory dance that took them out of contention from the start, but in Torino Pechalat and Bourzat will be more comfortable with the Golden Waltz.

Pechalat and Bourzat have a relatively successful American folk original dance that should keep them in contention for a medal; however, their weakness this season has been their free dance.

Each time that they have competed, there has been some technical glitch that hasn’t allowed the two-time Grand Prix Finalists from reaching their full potential. A medal might be a stretch for Pechalat and Bourzat in Torino, but expect them to fight until the very end.

The British Champions, Sinead Kerr and John Kerr have an outside shot at the bronze medal after an eighth place finish in Vancouver. The duo has climbed up the ranks rather slowly since 2006, but seemed poised to make a big jump in the standings because of the attrition among ranks.

“I would like to think we have a good chance,” John Kerr said of their chances to win a medal in Torino. “We have to put down three good skates, and that’s what we will be concentrating on doing.”

To be more competitive, the Kerrs have dropped their American folk original dance in favor of resurrecting their crowd-pleasing Scottish folk dance that they used for the 2007-08 season.

“We have mainly been working on changing our original dance,” John said. “We have already competed with the American folk dance eight times this season, and we just felt we needed a change to freshen things up. We thought it would be fun to bring back the kilt as well.

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