Which pair was America's best?
I know there were many before my time who were quite good.
In my memory, there were the Carruthers who I enjoyed-I thought they were great. I really loved Tai and Randy, they left a sad legacy in some ways, and then I recall seeing much of Meno and Sand and feeling this couple were under marked/no chance against Russians. For those that follow/study pairs, who was the best pair team America produced-even better, top three and why?
My favorite pairs were Russian and Canadian. I know so little re USA pairs...I have not read all the other pair thread, it mentioned people who are current, or those I never heard of. These above 3 were maybe the most successful to come along? I'd like to know about pairs from the beginning and up until say, 1980, and why they were speecial. Youtube naturally will be limited. When I think of dance expertise on GS, I think of Dorispulaski.
Who considers themselves a pair uber?
Last edited by skateluvr; 02-09-2012 at 03:15 AM.
I find myself unable to answer this question. The two pairs I'd suggest are Tai and Randy and Meno and Sand. But I'm not sure I've considered everything with enough perceptiveness.
I liked the ones who did the throw 3A. That was kind of cool. (Obviously I wasn't that big a fan because I can't remember their name)
Rena Inoue and John Baldwin. I agree; they were impressive.
I loved Kyoko Ino and John Zimmerman. I always thought they were underscored internationally. They were beautiful on the ice and in person almost too beautiful to be real.
I've been watching since 1991. In that period, 1991-2012, I think our best pair has been Meno & Sand. They had the best overall package of solid technical skills, strong pairs quality, and nice artistic skating. They always had good programs and a notable ability to connect with audiences. Jenni in particular was a very strong lady pairs skater--she had that special charisma. She really sold their programs and shone as a performer. Certainly, Meno & Sand were our most successful pair internationally: They won three World medals between 1994-1998. That's the most for any U.S. pair since Babilonia & Gardner (who also won three).
I also liked Kyoko Ina & Jason Dungjen. They were a very strong, athletic pair who broke up just as they were starting to make an impact on the international level. Personally I liked Kyoko better with Dungjen than with Zimmerman, because I thought their individual skating styles matched better than hers and Zimmerman's. (Although my husband liked her and Zimmerman more.)
At the rink. Again.
The Carruthers and Watson and Oppegard were both awesome teams as was Babilonia and Gardner (the only American World Champions)
I'll take a stab at this. First there are two ways of looking at this question. One is purely from the perspective accomplishments. The other is from the perspective of quality, whether that be athletic or artistic. I'll try to address both perspectives.
Looking at the question purely in terms of competitive record, the undeniably greatest US pair of all time would be Karol and Peter Kennedy. They were contemporaries of Dick Button, competing in the late 40's and early 50s. They were the first American pair to win a world title (1950) and the second to win Olympic silver. They also won an additional four world silver medals, two North American titles and five US championships. Pretty remarkable to consider that they were part of a spectacular generation of American champions that produced world champs in all eligible disciplines (no ice dance at Worlds at the time). The pair who were likely second to them in terms of accomplishment were Tai and Randy, the second American world champs, two time world bronze medalists, five time national champs, their lack of an Olympic medal hurts their cause (although there was an argument to have them on the podium in Innsbruck in 76). Third would likely be a tie between Kitty and Peter Carruthers and Beatrix Loughrin and Sherwan Badger. Both teams won Olympic silver and at least one world bronze. They also each had a previous top five finish at the prior Olympics. Next would be Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard and the Luddingtons. Both Olympic bronze medalists, one time world bronze medalists and otherwise up and down results. The next grouping would be the pairs who just missed out on Olympic success and/or never rose to the top of the world podium. They include Meno and Sand (one silver and two bronze world medals, 3 national championships and a top 5 Olympic finish in 94; Todd also won a fourth world medal with Kuchiki); the Kaufmans (three time world bronze medalists, four time national and two time North American champs; and Starbuck and Shelley (three time national champs, two time world bronze and controversially fourth in Sapporo). Just behind them would likely be Kyoko Ina and her partners Jason Dungjen and John Zimmerman. With them she won five national titles and two top five Olympic finishes culminating in a world bronze with Zimmerman at the end. Lastly, I would place Inoue and Baldwin in the list based solely on being the last US pair to place in the top five at Worlds (4th 2006).
Now in terms of quality of either athleticism innovation or artistry, the list changes quite a bit and becomes much more subjective. I would place Tai and Randy at the top under those criteria. They were the first pair to consistently perform throw triple salchows and did sbs double axels on and off at a time when double flips were the maximum for most pairs that did not include Rodnina. They reintroduced the same sort of harmonious gentle pairs skating that the Protopopovs made famous. They also had flair, superb technique and a connection with the audience that few pairs achieve. I'd put Meno and Sand second. They had a narrow range of programs and styles, but what they did well was sublime and at times iconic. I'd place the Carruthers third. They has a raw, less refined quality to them that was captivating. They were the kids next door who you wanted to have over for dinner. They were just the most normal, wholesome kids possible. Behind them, I'd rank Starbuck and Shelley. They had glorious lines, a gigantic throw axel, and wonderful unison. Next I'd list Ina and Zimmerman. She was far more consistent with Dungjen, but when they were on, Kyoko and John could be magical. He help to bring out the joyous side to her personality on the ice. Lastly, I'd tie Inoue and Baldwin and Watson and Oppegard. They were both wildly inconsistent teams who tried to push the technical envelope to the edge. They rarely succeeded, but when they did it was beyond exciting.
Tai and Randy! Tai and Randy! Tai and Randy! Two skating as one.
Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it, modern-day pairs skaters!
Jcoates, I'm so glad you mentioned Ken Shelley and JoJo Starbuck. I loved what I saw of them (mostly after the fact; I didn't find skating until a bit later). They were stylish and strong and had a wonderful line and connection. Both Ken and JoJo were strong individual skaters as well. One year, Shelley was both the national men's singles champion and the pairs champion. Significantly, both they and Tai and Randy were coached by John Nicks. He must have been some heck of a doubles coach judging by the refinement and strength of those two pairs. Shelley/Starbuck and Babilonia/Gardner would be at or near the top of my list for American pairs, along with Meno and Sand—who were also coached by John Nicks.
I have to agree with you, eyria, that would be my pick as well. Though my heart will always belong to Tai & Randy; they've been together since she was 8 & he 10, and they're still together after all these decades, best of friends, always there for each other (btw there's an excellent tearjerker documentary about them that was done when they made a comeback in the mid-90's). They just have that special "charisma/joy/effervescence/joie de vivre" that Meno & Sand lack imho.
Originally Posted by eyria
But as far as Mr. Button's most famous maxim is concerned, that is "two shall skate as one"/two halves of a perfect whole, then that would be Jenny Meno & Todd Sand imho. One couldn't find a more *perfectly* matched pair except of course for Ekaterina Gordeeva & Sergei Grinkov, and Shen & Zhao. Just those three, that's it in my book. Pair to me means being the other half of the same thing, as similar to each other as is humanly possible, short of being twins that is. :D
Like subtlety in ice dancing
jcoates's post on this seems definitive.
They were amazing and beautiful to watch. And also barrier-breaking. They were the first non-Europeans to win Worlds in 15 years, back when pre-judging was a much more important factor. Tai is also the first skater of African or Asian descent to win gold at Worlds as well as US nationals. The team broke the previously all-white barrier at the international and US level of figure skating. Also, judging by their athleticism in that video, I think they would've had the chops to compete now had they been born much later. I definitely think Randy/Tai is the best US pairs team ever.
Originally Posted by Mathman
Wicked Yankee Girl
I only have childhood memories of seeing Tai & Randy when they won Worlds and skated (briefly) at the Olympics. But I agree, they were incredibly special. About 10 years ago, I saw them skate live at the Ice Chips club show in Boston, and they were still amazing. They didn't perform any difficult tricks, but they were just wonderful to watch.
Another great American pair was Kristi Yamaguchi & Rudy Galindo. They skated a little before I started watching regularly, but I did see them a bit in those years, especially at Nationals and Worlds. Their career was a little short, obviously, and they didn't win any major medals. But they were a very good pair nonetheless. They were top 5 at Worlds twice, and against stiff competition--Gordeeva/Grinkov, Mishkutienok/Dmitriev, Brasseur/Eisler. Kristi & Rudy were both exceptional skaters on their own, of course, and they suited each other so well as a pair--both of them light, delicate, precise skaters. I wish, wish, wish they'd been able to continue as a pair for us. I really think they would have eventually won world medals, of some color.
Here's an interesting documentary about pairs skating in the Soviet Union back in the 80's (during G&G's time no doubt): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdOuO...eature=related
This documentary brings to mind another famous one that shows how the Russians would pick their ballerinas, hosted of course by the incomparable Princess Grace of Monaco: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Riap5pepjs
I've always admired the old Soviet System of perfection, and that includes picking the best of the best, never settling for less, and from which arise true greatness. That includes G&G, making sure to match their pair skaters by the definition of what a pair truly is (hopefully this word does not get usurped as well). And to think it might not have been if Katia had been accepted at the world famous Russian ballet school (shown in the aforementioned video up above), otherwise she would have never been paired with Sergei as a result.