Six events. Eight teams per event. Couple new thoughts
a) Split teams that placed in the top (6/10/12?) at Worlds within the past two seasons get a spot.
b) There were a few split teams that would’ve been eligible for a spot.
c) NO MORE SWITCHING BACK AND FORTH AND BACK AGAIN (hereby referred to as the Sui/Han rule)
Skate America: Denney/Coughlin, Donlan/Speroff, Yankowskas/Reagan
Two partners, the skaters who achieved the highest ranking for US pairs in a decade, split up and competing with other people. Oh, gossipy goodness. Marley/Brubaker are guaranteed two events, so they don’t need to be here. Denney/Coughlin seem to have some political sway with the US Federation. Also, they’re capable of some big elements and skating clean to audience recognizable music (if doing so without any sense of nuance or musicality, but beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to American pairs, Canadian ladies, etc). So, of the rest, Donlan/Speroff seem to be a better choice. They might, might go with Davis/Ladwig, but Donlan/Speroff need more international exposure and have more potential. Also, I like them (ideally, it would be D/S, Y/R and D/L, but D/C are locked into their position)
Skate Canada: Duhamel/Radford, Lawrence/Sweigers, TBA (Moore-Towers/Moscovitch)
Now this is confusing. Skate Canada took a gamble last season with pairs. They trusted that they could get Lawrence/Swiegers a second GP spot and went and got three spots for their new-to-seniors teams (the two Schultz teams, Jones/Gaskell). It didn’t work out. I think L/S were set back a little bit (though i question their own strategy, as much as it fascinates me). I can’t imagine them making the same mistake again. Dube/Wolfe will get two spots elsewhere thanks to their 12th place at Worlds. Duhamel/Radford are obvious. Now, Mt/M aren’t guaranteed two spots, and while they “should” get it without Skate Canada’s gerrymandering, they might not. I actually think it’d be nice to see Canada’s de facto top pairs at the beginning of the season. With the splits that we’ve had, it might not be a bad idea to actually have them test their mettle against each other, anyway.
Cup of China: Pang/Tong, Sui/Han, Peng/Zhang
Again, an interesting conundrum. Pang/Tong have already said they’d skate the GP. Easy pick. The new team of Peng/Zhang would like a debut in front of a friendly audience, and the rules are confusing enough that I’m not sure if they’d be eligible as a split couple (from him) So, do they shove Sui/Han up against them? I’m not sure. It’s not as if China doesn’t have anyone else – Yu/Jin are pretty fascinating in their own right. But Sui/Han have insane scoring capability. It’s a puzzle.
Cup of Russia: Volosozhar/Trankov, Bazarova/Larionov, TBA (Stolbova/Klimov)
V/T are far and away the best chance Russia has for gold in Sochi, and they know it. Get the hometown crowd juices flowing. B/L are good enough for the second spot. Stolbova/Klimov are the next generation and will be getting some federation love over the next couple seasons (I hope. I adore them). Now, it would be interesting if they did something different with the number one spot )which we’ll get to), but I’d be surprised.
TEB: James/Cipres, Popova/Massot, (Mendoza/Boyadji)
Went straight with the top three teams, score wise, last season. Frankly, I’d be floored if TEB used all three spots (you know, does a host pick HAVE to be a team from the host? Because if not, that would be a wicked thing to use in politicking).
Yeah. Knowing me, this’ll be my only 100% accurate prediction.
2. Seeded Skaters
Okay, so Takahashi/Tran are the most desired bronze medalists for the GP circuit since Dube/Davison. Every single team in the top ten has beaten them before. And they tend to peak later than most others. But which country gets them? Presumably, Russia doesn’t. They have a top three team. And the event is relatively close to NHK. But if Russia wasn’t putting all their eggs in the V/T basket, they should consider sending V/T to other events, and have their medal winner be T/T. T/T can lose against K/S and/or B/L and doing so could give those teams some momentum. On the other hand, like I said – V/T = Russia’s best chance for gold in Sochi. Right now, I’m gonna think that they go for Skate Canada (he hopedicted). They train in Canada, for starters. It’s far enough away from NHK that it gives them a reasonable gap for training (since NHK is so close to the GPF)
The other interesting question bobbles around Savchenko/Szolkowy. Their medal winning years occurred during the Chinese reign. So, despite having won three Skate Canadas, three Skate Americas, NHK, CoR and TEB, they’ve only competed once at CoC (before they won a medal) and came third (I might add that the CoC pairs podium was the same as the Worlds podium. No Chinese team on the podium = an opportunity for S/S to become only the second skaters to win every single GP event (Shen/Zhao are the other ones). Do they go for it? I hope so. I’d feel more comfortable predicting it if it was a little later in the season, though.
Skate America: Voloszhar/Trankov, Bazarova/Larionov
Skate Canada: Takahashi/Tran, (Duhamel/Radford)
Cup of China: Savchenko/Szolkowy, (Pang/Tong)
Cup of Russia: (Volosozhar/Trankov, Bazarova/Larionov)
TEB: Savchenko/Szolkowy , Pang/Tong
NHK: (Takahashi/Tran), Duhamel/Radford
Okay, I initially had S/S at Skate America, but that forced V/T to do back-to-back competitions. But, as reigning champions, I’m pretty sure S/S have first say. Which would likely force T/T out of Skate Canada to TEB, which we don’t want, so I’m being optimistic.
Skate America: (Denney/Coughlin), Kavaguti/Smirnov
Skate Canada: Marley/Brubaker, Berton/Hotarek
Cup of China: (Sui/Han), Dube/Wolfe
Cup of Russia: Denney/Coughlin, Marley/Brubaker
TEB: Kavaguti/Smirnov, Berton/Hotarek
NHK: Sui/Han, Dube/Wolfe
The 7th and 9th place teams from worlds have the potential to make this very interesting, depending on where they’re placed.
Where we’re at
Skate America: 6
Skate Canada: 6
Cup of China: 5
Cup of Russia: 5
Guaranteed One (not mentioned above)
Split couples: Zhang/Zhang, Evora/Ladwig, Iliushechkina/Maisuradze, Bobak/Beharry, Kadlecova/Bidar
Staying junior: Davankova/Deputat
Season’s Best (top 24): Moore-towers/Moscovitch, Stolbova/Klimov, Yu/Jin, Lawrence/Sweigers, Vise/Baldwin, Vartmann/Van Cleave
World Standing (top 24): Hausch/Wende, Gerboldt/Enbert, Dong/Wu, Kemp/King, James/Cipre
JGP/JW medalists: Simpson/Blackmer (eligible to stay junior, think they might)
Now, there are 17 spots left, and twelve teams. And this is where host picks become important. I have four of these teams as host picks already. Now, if the various federations name them right away as opposed to cite them as TBAs, it’s possible (not likely, but possible) that they don’t get a second spot. Whereas being on this list means they get one and they can get a second as a host pick. Presuming that happens...
Skate America: Kemp/King, Yu/Jin
Skate Canada: James/Cipre, Dong/Wu
Cup of China: Vartmann/Van Cleave, Gerboldt/Enbert, Vise/Baldwin
Cup of Russia: Dong/Wu, Hausch/Wende, Lawrence/Sweigers
TEB: Vartmann/Van Cleave, Moore-Towers/Moscovitch
NHK: Stolbova/Klimov, Vise/Baldwin, Hausch/Wende, Yu/Hin
Your guess is as good as mine. I don’t actually think that Lawrence/Sweigers will get two spots, but neither will Kemp/King.