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Thread: Greatest Pairs Skaters of all time? and best competitive amateur pairs programs?

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by merrywidow View Post
    I never cared for Rodnina, probably because I'd been a huge fan of the Protopopovs. Of the more modern pair teams I have to give the greatest title to Gordeeva & Grinkov. Special mention to Shen & Zhao, Babalonia & Gardner.
    Oh, don't get me wrong. My favorite pair ever were the Protopopovs. But, it's difficult to dismiss Rodnina. The record speaks for itself, but she was one of those skaters you couldn't take your eyes off.

    She had charisma out the wazoo. I admit to loving and rooting for B/G during Rodnina's latter years... they were the "home team" after all. But Irina was just so WOW.

    I know it's an old complaint of mine, but I'm afraid we'll never see pairs programs like those delivered by the icons of the sport. The Protopopovs (and B/G for that matter) took their time. They presented the elements in the most beautiful and finished fashion. They weren't rushed from one trick to the other like CoP skaters are today.

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    Still, I think they qualified for the "one-and-a-half" designation. She was 14 years old, 4 foot 10, weighed 77 pounds. He was 18, 6 feet tall, and more than double her weight at 161. Here they are winning their first world championship.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGy7c-kXBx0

    I tried without success to find out who was the first to come up with the term "gorilla and flea." I believe it was some Russian coach. According to Wikipedia, one of the first examples (before the term became current) was Manuela Gross (14) and Uwe Kegelmann (21) of East Germany, European bronze medalists in 1972.

    Babilonia and Garner faced the "handicap" of being about the same size. Mr Nicks is given big props for designing programs for them that worked around this and maximized their strengths.

    Here is an interesting blog entry that analyses the Chinese throw jump technique. This blogger notes that in general the Chinese do not have the gorilla/flea option because the men are too small (see, however, Zhang Hao), so they had to come up with a completely different throwing method (the author calls it a "joint jump").

    https://groups.google.com/forum/#!to...re/lD2ni1jHE4c
    Fascinating about the Chinese throw jump technique.

    As for Tai and Randy, it was interesting that the other John Nicks American pair, Ken Shelley and JoJo Starbuck, were also similar in size--in fact, I think their height differential was even a bit closer. Shelley was small for a guy (though not as small as Scott Hamilton or Paul Wylie--more off the order of Kurt Browning's size), and Starbuck was unusually tall for a lady skater--she looked to me to be somewhere between Katarina Witt and Carolina Kostner. Though these pairs might not have been able to skate today, with the current acrobatic lifts and throws, they did a sensational job with the toughest elements of their day. Both of these couples had started skating together as kids, so whatever happened during their growth spurts could not have been predicted, and clearly they decided to stay together no matter what. Another top American pair who did not have a height advantage was Kristi Yamaguchi and Rudy Galindo. They were also their country's best pair, and very high up in world rankings in their day. (I think they came in fifth in their best year.)

    Katia and Sergei were such a unique case that I never know how to classify them. I suppose at the beginning of their senior career she was a flea (though for her, butterfly might be a better classification), and it certainly gave them an advantage, but he was not exactly a gorilla. Also, their excellence came from other factors, not from any extreme or monumentally sized tricks. Their unison, their lightness, their uncanny grace, their speed across the ice, their blade control were all traits that were due to both hard work and innate gifts, not some lucky differential of size. The proof is, as I said before, that these traits did not decrease as she grew and as they both matured. After Katia and Sergei, it became a lot harder to pass off some undersized teenager as a pairs partner just because she could parrot the moves she was trained in and could sail high in the air during a throw.

  3. #33
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    good analysis. the Jeff and Mutt's no longer are so prevalent. Also there is only so much elegance a waif can emit from herself - look at Lipinskaya - she tries to look sophisticated and polished but her size or little girl body really makes it hard not to mentin she cannot generate much power on the jumps - she was like Lipiniski - they are like young colts with spindly legs it doesn't look that graceful or in control. it creates a lack of presence and authority even if you land the jump or execute the spin.

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    Fascinating about the Chinese throw jump technique.

    Another top American pair who did not have a height advantage was Kristi Yamaguchi and Rudy Galindo. They were also their country's best pair, and very high up in world rankings in their day. (I think they came in fifth in their best year.)

    Katia and Sergei were such a unique case that I never know how to classify them.
    Of all the American pairs since B/G I thought Kristi and Rudy had the greatest promise. I really enjoyed their skating, and they made real use of their opposite jump direction. I always loved their pair spiral into SBS double axels, for instance. I totally understand Kristi's decision to dissolve the partnership, and no one can claim it didn't pan out for her... but we really lost an opportunity to see an exciting pair develop.

    The thing about G/G is this... even when they were young, they didn't skate like they were young. Of course, there weren't a lot of super romantic programs in the early years, but they certainly didn't have the gangly underdeveloped look most young skaters have. They were graceful from an early age. They were absolutely charming.

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    thanks Tonto - that is the word "gangly" that so many young underdeveloped or undeveloped female skaters in particular have. AT times though they got through their routines you kind of wondered or worried about Rudi could he lift Kristi though she was petite.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TontoK View Post

    The thing about G/G is this... even when they were young, they didn't skate like they were young. Of course, there weren't a lot of super romantic programs in the early years, but they certainly didn't have the gangly underdeveloped look most young skaters have. They were graceful from an early age. They were absolutely charming.
    That's it, I think. They had a maturity even from the start, when she was all of fourteen. Another thing they had (well, really it was mainly her contribution to the team, I think) was an astonishing gift for connecting with the audience. A lot of very young skaters look as though they're just exceedingly well trained, and they run like clockwork. There's a kind of distance about them, as if they're just thinking about their next move. Katia looked as if she was alive and awake and thrilled to be there, and delighted to be skating with that particular partner above all others. How could the audience (and likely the judges) not also feel more awake and alive and thrilled to be there to see them?

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    That's it, I think. They had a maturity even from the start, when she was all of fourteen. Another thing they had (well, really it was mainly her contribution to the team, I think) was an astonishing gift for connecting with the audience. A lot of very young skaters look as though they're just exceedingly well trained, and they run like clockwork. There's a kind of distance about them, as if they're just thinking about their next move. Katia looked as if she was alive and awake and thrilled to be there, and delighted to be skating with that particular partner above all others. How could the audience (and likely the judges) not also feel more awake and alive and thrilled to be there to see them?
    You know, I think this has something to do with Marina Zueva's influence. In her book, Katia talked about how Marina would have them make faces at themselves for hours in the mirror after their on-ice training to practice conveying emotion. She would give them instructions on how they would look if they wanted to express sadness, joy, etc. These are the little details that I think the Russians do so well... It's an easy thing to forget in a skating competition when one is so focused on getting the technical elements right, and when you are a small person skating in a huge arena, far away from the judges and audience, it's easy to think that facial expressions wouldn't matter or wouldn't be seen. However, something so small such as this can add so much to a performance and especially for viewers at home. Certainly, Katia's face is very expressive to begin, and both of them were expressive with their movement quality, but I think this kind of training certainly helped.

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    An interesting point! I forgot that part of Katia's book, but I have a strong memory of reading Katia's discussion of their very close relationship with Zoueva and how all three committed themselves to the effort to become champions. Clearly, Marina knew what she was doing from the earliest moments of her career. Thanks for reminding me that she didn't just get started when she went to work with the ice dancers in Michigan.

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    My favs:

    If the main point of view is perfection and ethernity:
    1. Protopopovs

    If the main point is the whole package with the modern (more difficult) single skating elements and poesy together:
    1. Gordeeva/Grinkov

    If the main point is passion and revolutionary new moves:
    1. Mishkutionok/Dmitriev

    If the main point is acrobacy STILL together with poesy and down-to-earth-human-being:
    1.Shen/Zhao

    If I would mention the name of Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze and Sale/Pelletier I listed almost all the GREAT one, whose achievement was timeless and lasts forever.
    Rodnina was special. But not as a pair skater. She was more a single skater with an unbeatable charisma and consistency.
    No throw jumps (only splits) and very few real pair elements what can be called " great"....



    If the main point of view is one single performance, it is a tie between these 2 LPs as THE greatest one's:

    http://youtu.be/13U6eBsaycY

    http://youtu.be/F7qJ4klfNnE

    And the best ever SP is:

    http://youtu.be/g3apad6eWLM

  10. #40
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    Those are three really great choices, Bigdeal!

    Just to watch them again is a joy. I realize that I can't watch Shen/Zhao's Turandot without tearing up. Everything about it--what's on the ice, what we know about her physical condition, what they clearly feel for each other--is gripping and astounding.

  11. #41
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    Gordeeva and Grinkov best team EVER.

    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    I always thought of gorilla and flea as not just a difference in size but a difference in age. The Soviets especially would choose a very young girl to be partnered by a tall, mature male skater. (This was before age limits.) The most egregious example was Marina Cherkasova and Sergei Shakrai. I think she was twelve their first international year. They did amazing throws, as you can imagine.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1b8NF9MhYs

    The minute she grew a bit, they lost their edge (pun not intended).

    In a way, Brasseur and Eisler were a different evolution of "gorilla and flea," because he was a hulking ex-hockey player, while she was so petite. But she was pretty much fully grown, so although Lloyd didn't have the finesse of Russian male skaters, he didn't look weird and unsettling next to Isabelle the way Chakrai did with his pre-teen partner. They did, however, belong to the "big tricks" school of skating.
    The comments under the clips of Cherkasova/Shakrai are overwhelmingly negative though- does anyone know why? They did win an Olympic medal didn't they? My training mate and I were having this discussion because he's one of our coaches.

  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by elle_e View Post
    Gordeeva and Gribkov best team EVER.



    The comments under the clips of Cherkasova/Shakrai are overwhelmingly negative though- does anyone know why? They did win an Olympic medal didn't they? My training mate and I were having this discussion because he's one of our coaches.
    They did win an Olympic silver medal; I'd forgotten that. And also a world championship. I checked a couple of clips and see what you mean about the negative comments. While they were both technically strong, and Shakrai is a solid partner, they seemed to have no chemistry between them, in fact no connection at all, and in the early years of their partnership it was downright unsettling to watch them because of the size and age discrepancy. She was about 65 pounds when they started skating and was 12 years old. A grown man skating with a child to music, even if no romance was implied, gave a lot of people the creeps. This is not something either skater could help; I'm sure that in those days, their partnership was set up by the coach or the federation. Interestingly, in the 1979-80 season, she grew quite a few inches all at once--the announcer said four or five inches. She was at that point 15 years old. In 1980, when Babilonia/Gardner of the U.S. were injured and Rodnina/Zaitsev retired, Cherkasova/Shakrai won the world championship. The next year, when Marina was 16, they didn't even make bronze; they finished fourth. In 1982, they didn't even make the podium at Soviet nationals and didn't go to Worlds. They seem to have split up soon after.

    So C/S have quite a track record, including several international medals (and of course the Olympic one), but their career was short, and it ended as soon as she was fully grown. The conclusion I draw is that their strengths depended almost exclusively on her size, and once she lost that advantage, they had no other superior skills as a pair. They were good skaters, of course, and their meticulous training would make either of them a good coach. But you can see from the clips that they didn't have either Rodnina/Zaitsev's commanding power or any particular artistic persona. Remember that the next Olympic cycle had Moskvina's first champion pair, Valova and Vasiliev, as well as Underhill and Martini of Canada. Chercasova/Shakrai couldn't keep up once they'd lost their throw triple jumps and gravity defying lifts.

    What's he like as a coach? It must be amazing getting coached by an Olympian!

  13. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    They did win an Olympic silver medal; I'd forgotten that. And also a world championship. I checked a couple of clips and see what you mean about the negative comments. While they were both technically strong, and Shakrai is a solid partner, they seemed to have no chemistry between them, in fact no connection at all, and in the early years of their partnership it was downright unsettling to watch them because of the size and age discrepancy. She was about 65 pounds when they started skating and was 12 years old. A grown man skating with a child to music, even if no romance was implied, gave a lot of people the creeps. This is not something either skater could help; I'm sure that in those days, their partnership was set up by the coach or the federation. Interestingly, in the 1979-80 season, she grew quite a few inches all at once--the announcer said four or five inches. She was at that point 15 years old. In 1980, when Babilonia/Gardner of the U.S. were injured and Rodnina/Zaitsev retired, Cherkasova/Shakrai won the world championship. The next year, when Marina was 16, they didn't even make bronze; they finished fourth. In 1982, they didn't even make the podium at Soviet nationals and didn't go to Worlds. They seem to have split up soon after.

    So C/S have quite a track record, including several international medals (and of course the Olympic one), but their career was short, and it ended as soon as she was fully grown. The conclusion I draw is that their strengths depended almost exclusively on her size, and once she lost that advantage, they had no other superior skills as a pair. They were good skaters, of course, and their meticulous training would make either of them a good coach. But you can see from the clips that they didn't have either Rodnina/Zaitsev's commanding power or any particular artistic persona. Remember that the next Olympic cycle had Moskvina's first champion pair, Valova and Vasiliev, as well as Underhill and Martini of Canada. Chercasova/Shakrai couldn't keep up once they'd lost their throw triple jumps and gravity defying lifts.

    What's he like as a coach? It must be amazing getting coached by an Olympian!
    Wow, thank you for the indepth response. It made a very interesting read. Sergei doesn't talk about himself much - we found out through wikipedia about his skating past He's a dedicated coach, and has a great sense of humour, because all of his long-term students learn to mimic his accent. He's very humble, so even though he's had so many achievements in his past, he applauds when his students get the simplest of elements.

    One a side note, I can't believe I forgot about Shen/Zhao - They are exquisite. I'm also a fan of Savchenko/Szolkowy, they're adorable!

  14. #44
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    elle_e:

    Please tell us more about yourself... protecting your anonymity, of course.

    I think it's great we have an active skater coached by a World Champion, and I'm interested in learning more about what it's like to train with him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TontoK View Post
    elle_e:

    Please tell us more about yourself... protecting your anonymity, of course.

    I think it's great we have an active skater coached by a World Champion, and I'm interested in learning more about what it's like to train with him.
    Agreed!

    I'm glad to hear that Shakrai is such a good coach and a nice person. You could see from the clips that he was a really strong skater, and it must be such an advantage to learn from a man with his understanding of the sport. I think somewhere I read that his coach was Zhuk? You're practically learning from skating royalty!

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