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

  1. #16
    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    I admit to having mixed feelings about the legacy of Irina Rodnina and her partners. Obviously her competitive record speaks for itself. But she took pairs skating in a different direction. Instead of "two skating as one" the discipline became "huge tricks." The "gorilla and flea" model was not far behind. It is interesting to me that the popularity of ice dance began to increase at about the same time that the allure of pairs skating diminished, at least in North America.

    Here are Rodnina and Zaitzev at the 1976 Olympics.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hezu89-XrY

  2. #17
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    M/D.
    As inconsistent as they were, they produced some clean programs at the biggest stage a few times. They are my favorite of all pairs.

  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by lcd View Post
    John Nicks has a legacy of students who have given wonderful performances. I would go back to Starbuck and Shelley and the performance they skated at 1971 Worlds in Lyon. The crowd obviously felt that the 5.6 they received and bronze medal were undermarked and wrongly under-placed respectively. Babilonia and Gardner's 1979 Worlds win in Vienna of course is iconic.
    Thanks for mentioning Shelley and Starbuck. They came a bit before I discovered figure skating, but I've seen them skate as a pro pair and also as soloist pros. I think they would vie for the title of best American pair ever as well. Just tremendously strong. Yes, indeed, Nicks has been a sensational pairs coach, and his singles coaching ain't bad either.

    Here are two ancient, grainy videos showing Nicks' four skaters, Starbuck, Shelley, Babilonia, and Gardner, skating as an ensemble. Their styles and heights were so compatible that they were able to exchange partners and also to do a breathtaking Ina Bauer a quatre. These videos show the same program skated six years apart. (They're in reverse chronological order.)

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

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6l8d3FLWVA

  4. #19
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    Gordeeva & Grinkov, they were truly the best pair, they moved as one - as a pair should be, precise in every way.

  5. #20
    Custom Title Kitt's Avatar
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    I love G & G, but I must admit I get a lump in my throat just thinking about S/Z 2003 Worlds! The triumph on her face as she rounds the corner towards ending, knowing they nailed it despite injury! That's what it's all about!

  6. #21
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  7. #22
    Custom Title merrywidow's Avatar
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    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.

  8. #23
    Tripping on the Podium
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    Gordeeva/Grinkov - almost all programmes
    Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze Chaplin LP 2001, Olympics SP Lady Caliph 2002
    Savchenko/Sholkowy - almost all programmes - 2007 Mission LP, Cirque du Soleil 2008 LP, Schindler's List 2009 LP , Send in the Clowns SP 2010, The Pink Panther LP 2011, 2011 SP, Pina 2012 LP

  9. #24
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    Why are we even having this conversation? Gordeeva and Grinkov
    Moonlight Sonata

  10. #25
    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    ^ You be the judge.

    G&G Moonlight Sonata

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pY7HFPSmx8M

    M&D Rachmaninov

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

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    I admit to having mixed feelings about the legacy of Irina Rodnina and her partners. Obviously her competitive record speaks for itself. But she took pairs skating in a different direction. Instead of "two skating as one" the discipline became "huge tricks." The "gorilla and flea" model was not far behind. It is interesting to me that the popularity of ice dance began to increase at about the same time that the allure of pairs skating diminished, at least in North America.

    Here are Rodnina and Zaitzev at the 1976 Olympics.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hezu89-XrY
    Gorilla and flea?! I have never heard that before, and I love it. Would you describe Brasseur and Eisler as in this mold?!

  12. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by wordsworthgirl View Post
    Gorilla and flea?! I have never heard that before, and I love it. Would you describe Brasseur and Eisler as in this mold?!
    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.

    Someone once referred to Gordeeva and Grinkov as an example of gorilla and flea, which I absolutely disagreed with, because although she was only fourteen when they won their first Worlds, he was only eighteen and was never hugely tall. I think they were just child prodigies. Not only that, but they didn't lose their talent with maturity; indeed, they just kept getting better, even after she gave birth to her first child.

  13. #28
    Figure Skating Is A Dangerous Sport Dee4707's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    I tear up every time I see that. Every time.
    Just watched S/Z's program again. Am sniffling and hunting for a Kleenex. They are so sublime.
    I agree, I love the way Hongbo presents her to the audience. The other thing that always got to me was Bin Yao tears. He is quite a tall man.

  14. #29
    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post

    Someone once referred to Gordeeva and Grinkov as an example of gorilla and flea, which I absolutely disagreed with, because although she was only fourteen when they won their first Worlds, he was only eighteen and was never hugely tall.
    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

  15. #30
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    I wouldn't call G/G or B/E gorilla-flea combinations. Sergei was a bit too thin to be the gorilla and Isabelle, while quite small, wasn't quite a flea. I always think of this one pic of Cherkasova and Shakrai (whom I have never actually seen skate) when people mention that.

    Shelby Lyons and Brian Wells of the U.S. might be a more recent pair (late '90s, I think) who qualify as a gorilla-flea pair. ETA: Never mind. While Shelby was much younger than Brian, I looked at their pictures a minute ago and she was not as small as I had recalled.

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