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Thread: What We Talk About When We Talk About Pairs (Y/T/T)

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    What We Talk About When We Talk About Pairs (Y/T/T)

    A New Land
    Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov. Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev. Irina Rodnina and Alexei Ulanov. Belousova and Protopopov. Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul. Maxi Herber and Ernst Baier. Emilia Rotter and Laslo Szollas. Andree Joly-Brunet and Pierre Brunet. These are the pairs teams that have won four (or more) world championship titles. It’s an insanely lustrous group – only one team hasn’t won an Olympic Gold Medal (Rotter/Szollas, who won the world titles from 1932-35, before losing to Herber/Baier from Germany at the Olympic Games).

    And now, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. They have matched Katarina Witt and Herber/Baier as the most successful German skaters (four world titles each, though other accomplishments means they’re third overall, imo). This is meaningful for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it gives lie to the belief that a long career of sustained excellence is impossible under COP. It’s also a tribute to this team that they’ve been able to thrive, creating fascinating, ambitious programs under the rigidity that is COP. I have no idea how they’ll top Pina next year.

    The Russian Pairs Reign, delayed?
    Random Wiki fact. Ulanov broke up with Rodnina in order to skate with Smirnova (I think – one happened right after the other). They got married and had two kids. Their daughter, Irina Ulanova, was a pairs skater as well. Her partners included Alexander Smirnov and Maxim Trankov. Apropos of nothing.

    The astonishing breadth of the Russian pairs team continues to astound. Even when my hopes are dashed by uninteresting choreography, part of me still roots for Volosozhar/Trankov. Even when it seems like they’ll be relegated, Kavaguti/Smirnov still deliver some fascinating programs. Bazarova/Larionov may be journeymen, but may all journeymen have her positions and his strength. Davankova/Deputat are new, but man what potential. And Stolbova/Klimov? Well, I started liking this team based on their 10/11 short program. I fell hard after this season’s two programs. If they had better line and posture, well, that would just be unfair to the rest of the teams.

    My subtitle is a little bit of a misnomer, maybe. But I really believed that V/T would win worlds this year. Instead, they settled for silver after falling on a death spiral (what!), we had only one Russian team in the top five (no, seriously - WHAT) and V/T don’t seem to be progressing like I hoped they would. Misplaced expectations, perhaps, but it’s still frustrating that they’re not an all time list team.

    North America.... a bit of a resurgence?
    You know, the complaint is made every year – when are the Americans gonna get some pairs teams. Granted, the complaint is drowned out thanks to the overwhelming agony that are the American ladies, but still, it’s asked. But there’s actually quite a good crop of young American pairs that if the skate gods are kind (oh please, SGs, be kind) could do some marvelous things. Like what if Donlan gets her jumps? What if Yankowskas and Regan jell? Simpson and Blackmer actually did a Titanic program that didn’t make me want to go sink a ship (oh, the horror that movie wrought). What if Marley/Brubaker grow? What if Denney and Coughlin stop trying to sell a moment and merely sell the skating?

    Canada’s not doing to shabbily either. An off season for Moore-Towers/Moscovitch sent them back to the drawing board (they’re planning on getting new positions for their lifts!!! Hallelujah!). Bobak/Beharry were a new team and did solidly this season – hopefully we’ll see some growth (she needs to look more engaged, stat!). Dube managed to defy expectations and went to Worlds with a new partner in Wolfe. And Duhamel/Radford had one of the skates of the season with their Canadian Nationals LP.

    China... where do we go from here?
    2012 will go down as the first year since 1998 that there were no Chinese teams on the pairs podium. A 14 year stretch. That’s remarkable. Except..... that 14 year stretch is composed of only three teams: Shen/Zhao, Pang/Tong, and Zhang/Zhang. One of those teams is retired. The other two plan on competing but have struggled with injuries/inconsistency/drive.

    On the one hand, we have the team of Sui/Han, who’s high flying tricks and overall pizzazz have done a terrific job at masking their basic deficiencies. They’re the first Chinese team outside the big three to crack the top ten at senior worlds. How far can they go?

    Takahashi/Tran
    It’s unlikely we’ll see them in Sochi. They’re young enough that if they wanted to make a run for the 2018 Olympics, he could work towards citizenship. You’ve gotta wonder if the Japanese federation makes a push for them earlier. Lovely skaters, and Narumi of course is a delight (though I loved Mervin’s “fist pump” just as much as her legs-akimbo glee)
    Last edited by ImaginaryPogue; 04-09-2012 at 08:00 PM.

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    Like subtlety in ice dancing Serious Business's Avatar
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    I predict it will continue to be a close fight between S/S and V/T the next season, with V/T coming out on top. I predict V/T will continue to have wretched choreography.

    The US has at least two competent pairs (D/C and M/B) and a slew of promising ones. But I doubt they'll be much of a factor at major competitions internationally outside of 4CC. Still, I can't wait to see how Y/R turns out!

    I would not be surprised if Duhamel/Radford become a serious threat internationally. Dubé/Wolfe, on the other hand, seems to be regressing. Wolfe is just not up to snuff. I'm not normally for a partner getting mad at another, but I thoroughly sympathized with Jessica. She may be stuck with him because of the scarcity of males, but I bet she's not happy about it.

    Sui/Han has started doing some of the most difficult pairs programs ever attempted as the season progressed. They're only going to up the ante next season. I would not be surprised if the ISU changes SP rules to allow the quad twist, and have Sui/Han be the first team to take advantage of it. I really, really hope Sui/Han's remarkable showmanship rub off on all the other top Chinese skaters. But it doesn't seem to have happened yet. I also hope Sui improves her basic skating. But it doesn't seem to have happened yet, either. Yu/Jin is another promising up and coming pairs team from China, but watching them skate is like watching paint dry... painfully.

    I hope Takahashi/Tran takes the momentum and elation from their World Bronze and run with it. Use it to build that confidence for those solo jumps. Use the fame to get more support from the Japanese federation and the Japanese public. If they don't go to Sochi, Japan may as well forfeit the team competition. The JSF has to make Tran's citizenship happen. Blackmail him! Blackmail someone in the Diet! Just make it happen!

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    Thanks for this informative post. I didn't realize that Savchenko/Szolkowy had climbed in to such rarefied territory with their four wins. I love them and hope they earn gold in Sochi, though they'll have their hands full with the Russian teams. (On Russian soil!) S/S are so innovative and powerful that I will root for them.

    Since I'm kind of ignorant about details, could you elaborate on what Sui and Han aren't secure on in terms of technique? It will give me something to look for the next time I watch them.

    As for the Americans, I'm just a bit sorry that Evora and Ladwig aren't among the promising up-and-comers. I know they're closer to the end of their career than the beginning, but they have such a lovely flow and unison that I would love to see more of them in the coming years. At least they have that wonderful memory of skating well at the Olympics.

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    Like subtlety in ice dancing Serious Business's Avatar
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    Sui severely lacks power in her stroking, at least so it seems to me. This slows the whole team down.

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    You know, aside from Volosozhar/Trankov, I'm liking Takahashi/Tran and Sui/Han very much. I thought the Japanese had lovely programs, soft movements and really grabbed the audience attention. Sui/Han have some major crazy elements that make my eyes pop out of its sockets, sure they still have areas of improvement, but one of the things that really caught my attention was how good (by Chinese standards) they are at performing. Usually I would expect such a young Chinese team to be shy and not show much emotion on the ice, but these two are fire-crackers, and being so young that really called to me (so different from the Zhangs, although I still hope they take a page from the Shen/Zhao diaries). I think Luan Bo has worked something good with Sui and Han and hopefully they will continue developing both technically and artistically.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    Since I'm kind of ignorant about details, could you elaborate on what Sui and Han aren't secure on in terms of technique? It will give me something to look for the next time I watch them.
    Pairs are supposed to be two skating as one. When they skate side by side, they should match, arms, legs, stroking rhythm. Sui & Han don't match. They don't stroke together, their lines don't match, they're pumping in their stroking. Their basic skating is very poor, and they use a lot of short choppy strokes to achieve speed, instead of using a long powerful stroke. So they cover it up. Their upper bodies are quite busy and frantic, and their faces are very expressive. The whole effect is to keep you focused on their upper bodies and distract you from their feet and their legs. They also move around each other a lot so that they're not moving side by side where the lack of matching lines is more apparent. The catch on the quad twist is generally not good either. She often ends up slung over his shoulder before he sets her down.

    Try watching their programs from the knees down and ignore the tossing heads, and the waving "look here, look here" arms. The choreography is very cleverly done to mask their weaknesses, but if you just watch their feet, it's easy to see. If you want a benchmark to compare them to, V&T have beautiful basic skating, and excellent matching lines. Totmiamina & Marinen have the best matching lines every, IMO, but V&T are close. And S&S are very good too.

    Given the weakness of their basic skating, spins, and footwork, I'm shocked at S&H's skating skills scores. I'd give them low 6.0's for skating skills, but high marks for performance because they sell the heck out of it.
    Last edited by Dragonlady; 04-09-2012 at 09:38 PM.

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    I like Sui/Han a lot, but the weakness of their basic skating is a tremendous problem. I'm worried that since they're getting such good results they won't bother addressing it. Actually, my biggest fear is that Sui will grow, be too tall for Han, get a new partner, and then there won't be the same spark that the two have now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonlady View Post
    Pairs are supposed to be two skating as one. When they skate side by side, they should match, arms, legs, stroking rhythm. Sui & Han don't match. They don't stroke together, their lines don't match, they're pumping in their stroking. Their basic skating is very poor, and they use a lot of short choppy strokes to achieve speed, instead of using a long powerful stroke. So they cover it up. Their upper bodies are quite busy and frantic, and their faces are very expressive. The whole effect is to keep you focused on their upper bodies and distract you from their feet and their legs. They also move around each other a lot so that they're not moving side by side where the lack of matching lines is more apparent. The catch on the quad twist is generally not good either. She often ends up slung over his shoulder before he sets her down.

    Try watching their programs from the knees down and ignore the tossing heads, and the waving "look here, look here" arms. The choreography is very cleverly done to mask their weaknesses, but if you just watch their feet, it's easy to see. If you want a benchmark to compare them to, V&T have beautiful basic skating, and excellent matching lines. Totmiamina & Marinen have the best matching lines every, IMO, but V&T are close. And S&S are very good too.

    Given the weakness of their basic skating, spins, and footwork, I'm shocked at S&H's skating skills scores. I'd give them low 6.0's for skating skills, but high marks for performance because they sell the heck out of it.
    Thank you so much! I'll keep all this in mind. And I'll look up Totmianina/Marinin for their unison.

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    Like subtlety in ice dancing Serious Business's Avatar
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    That seems to be how it goes with so many of the top Chinese skaters: they have lots of qualities that are unparalleled, but then one or two basic things that are just M.I.A. Shen/Zhao, Pang/Tong and Zhang/Zhang all started as complete flatliners in the performance department, though, of course, they improved muchly in that area (especially Shen/Zhao, not so much the Zhangs). Sui/Han, against all odds, started out as remarkable performers, and they're capable of amazing and record-breaking technical elements. It's just the basic skating is not there. Still, considering the record of the Chinese skating program, I'd have to say they got the better end of the bargain, because performance ability is a lot harder to come by in an institution that treats charisma as a dump stat. The Chinese skating program is extremely insular and seems pretty oblivious. But we did see remarkable effort made to improve the performance ability of the three pioneer pairs once they reached critical mass. So there's some hope that Sui/Han will get the help they need.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ImaginaryPogue View Post

    China... where do we go from here?
    2012 will go down as the first year since 1998 that there were no Chinese teams on the pairs podium. A 14 year stretch. That’s remarkable. Except..... that 14 year stretch is composed of only three teams: Shen/Zhao, Pang/Tong, and Zhang/Zhang. One of those teams is retired. The other two plan on competing but have struggled with injuries/inconsistency/drive.

    On the one hand, we have the team of Sui/Han, who’s high flying tricks and overall pizzazz have done a terrific job at masking their basic deficiencies. They’re the first Chinese team outside the big three to crack the top ten at senior worlds. How far can they go?
    I love pairs

    China is on a transition, with its top 3 pairs already old and injury, competing out of a so called delayed retirement, but its good they are investing in young new piars, Sui/Han are the future of Chinese Pairs, yes they have dreadful skating skills but they are working on it , Yu/Jin are also promising
    Russia could face the same problem once V/T and K/S retire so its good they are investing in promising young junior pairs like Davankova/Deputat, Fedorova/Miroshkin, Gainetdinova/Bich etc.

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    T/T could only do double twist last season to getting really high score for their triple twist this season. They could work on the quad twist and establish themselves as the #3 in the world for the coming years. By 2018, they should be prime for gold if both become consistent.

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    Off the ice Buttercup's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ImaginaryPogue View Post
    Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. They have matched Katarina Witt and Herber/Baier as the most successful German skaters (four world titles each, though other accomplishments means they’re third overall, imo). This is meaningful for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it gives lie to the belief that a long career of sustained excellence is impossible under COP. It’s also a tribute to this team that they’ve been able to thrive, creating fascinating, ambitious programs under the rigidity that is COP. I have no idea how they’ll top Pina next year.
    My guess is that they won't try to top it; Ingo Steuer knows what he's doing, and will give them something as different as possible - to avoid comparisons and to keep Aliona, Robin, the judges and the fans interested. I also expect at least one "softer" program; they haven't had one since the Olympic season.

    Robin, BTW, was the oldest skater at Worlds - so yes, you can have a prolonged career and succeed well into your thirties.

    I really believed that V/T would win worlds this year. Instead, they settled for silver after falling on a death spiral (what!), we had only one Russian team in the top five (no, seriously - WHAT) and V/T don’t seem to be progressing like I hoped they would. Misplaced expectations, perhaps, but it’s still frustrating that they’re not an all time list team.
    Oh, apparently Morozov has extra special music for them that he's never given anyone else, but after seeing their Black Swan, he was persuaded!

    So long as they stick with Morozov, I expect the choreography to remain awful and the marks to remain high. There will be a huge push for them going into Sochi, and sadly, I'm not sure anything S/S will do will suffice. But I continue to hope for the best.

    North America.... a bit of a resurgence?
    I wouldn't lump Canada and the US into one category. the US last had a pairs team on the podium in 2002 (?) compared with 2008 for Canada, and I think you could make an argument that D/D should have been higher that year. Canadian pairs consistently perform better on the GP and finish higher at Worlds. D/C are just painful to watch and Y/R are too much of an unknown. Maybe Donlan/Speroff will save US pairs, but it won't be in this Olympic cycle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FlattFan View Post
    T/T could only do double twist last season to getting really high score for their triple twist this season. They could work on the quad twist and establish themselves as the #3 in the world for the coming years. By 2018, they should be prime for gold if both become consistent.
    Quad twist? I think upgrading their throw jumps would be a better option. Takahashi/Tran do both their throws in the second half of their LP, but if I recall correctly, one of them is only a throw 3T. And their other throw (including the one they do in the SP) is only a throw 3S as well. In contrast, most of the other top pairs are doing at least a throw 3F. Narumi of course could also work on not 2-footing the throw jumps all the time.

    As for Sui/Han, Sui especially should be sent to the coach who taught Han Yan his basic skating skills.

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    I don't think S/S wil win in Sochi. Their strong side is choreo and Pina this year was amazing but it's not like it's always masterpiece (though they've had a lot of them - Out of Africa is another example, IMO) but the last years programs were, frankly speaking, flashy kitsch and this year's short is average. So they need another masterpiece like Pina for 2014 and it's not that easy to creat brilliant programs evey season.
    And the main problem as I see is that I think that season they didn't skate both a spotless short and long in a competition. There were nothing major for the most part, just a little "dirt" but this "durt" can cost them a lot when it counts. And honestly, considering theit age and traumas, I'm not sure they can fix it.
    V/T have slightly more chanse (nah, not because of politicking) but their future is uncertain too - they need to teach Max not to head-case and they need to clean their dirt (like two-footing throws). As to their choreo - it's pretty average and basic but the programs are saved and sold with thier natural charisma, good basics and big tricks.

    I wouldn't be surprise if Klimova/Stolbov climbed the podium in Sochi (not gold or silver, but bronze is possible) - so much potential in those kids and quiet quick progress.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Redstone View Post

    I wouldn't be surprise if Klimova/Stolbov climbed the podium in Sochi (not gold or silver, but bronze is possible) - so much potential in those kids and quiet quick progress.
    good throwers but bad lifts, their lifts are one of the ugliest positions I have ever seen, its like Stolbova is too heavy for him when he's holding her up, lol
    and they don't have a triple twist. they will have to fight for a spot with B/L and K/S for the Olympics, I know some will say K/S are getting old but they still have a shot to medal more than S/K for the Olympics

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