Pairs Update, Juniors and Seniors

The Seniors

A couple of updates:

We got notice that Novoselov has been released from France and can now skate with Stolbova for Russia, so that’s happening. I guess we’ll see them at the test skates. And, the other new Russian team, Yatsenko/Parkman, are in fact, Belarussia. They’re skating for Belarus.

We also got confirmation that Yu/Zhang are still skating! So excited. It doesn’t look like they are jumping yet but I like the program! I love how committed she is even if they don’t do the full program.

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Midsummer Pairs News

Since my last post, there has been more pairs news! Some new pairs have been announced and the first of the pairs outings of the new season have taken place. It’s really interesting how things are shaping up. Here is a run down of what we know so far:

Splits

Miura/Ichihashi – And then there were none! Japan has no pairs, as far as I can tell. But it does sound like he wants to continue (??), so maybe one of the plethora of Japanese girls skating these days will give pairs a try. Not so sure about her plans. Maybe we’ll see her back?

New Pairs

Zhuk/Bidar – Martin Bidar is now partnered with a Russian skater, Elizaveta Zhuk. The last time we really saw her in competition was a couple of years ago. She was super young but I was still impressed. In fact, she is still super young (since she was 13 then – 16 now) but she will be skating in Senior now… I think. Wait, could they do Junior if they wanted?? Actually, they could! But I doubt they will. I think they are both very talented, so I’m interested to see where this goes. There is the little problem that she will need to get a release from the Russian Federation but at least she hasn’t competed internationally in the past year. And they have so many skaters! They can’t possibly use them all.

A gossipy aside: back in the day Zhuk was skating with Britkov and then she disappeared but I guess not really. She was just paired with Miroshkin, who ended up injured and they didn’t compete. So I totally get in Elizaveta, move on. (And apparently she did for a bit with Shagalov… I’m guessing this is the Shagalov now paired with Akapova?) But now Labazina is paired with Miroshkin and I am worried for her. What if she disappears for two years too!

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Pairs Check Up

It’s that time of year when I start to feel intrigued about the coming skating season. Grand Prix assignments have been announced, shows are coming to a close, summer competitions are starting – I can feel it in the air. And, I am once again in that head space where I feel like I want to write about skating. I was exhausted by last season – I just couldn’t keep up. So, I’m not going to try to this coming season but I do still want to write my thoughts every now and then.

Since the end of the season, there have been quite a few changes (a few which took me by surprise.) So, in the few months since Worlds there have been some interesting developments – splits, new teams, coaching changes, program choices and assignments. Overall, it looks like the field is going to expand a bit, so I think the competition is going to become a wee bit stiffer. Pairs need to ready. So, let’s do a review. What is everyone at?

Chinese Teams

Sui/Han – No more injuries! It has to be the priority and I’m sure it is. They just need everyone around them to be really smart and aware when it comes to their training. It looks like they spent some time training with Gordeeva in California – I assume to continue to build skating skills, presence, sophistication. With Tarasova/Morozov moving to Zueva, I think the rivalry between the two teams will only increase, so the more tools in the belt, the better. Maybe a quad twist in the future too? It sounds like they will continue to work with Lori Nichol, which makes me happy. I’m still thinking about their free program at Worlds…

Peng/Jin – This past season has been terrific for Peng and Jin. They got a lot of attention in both their training and competing, they experienced a lot of success, they maintained their health, they finally got that triple salchow in… kind of. They made big strides and thankfully, I don’t think these two can be pushed aside now. We’ve witnessed what they can do; the judges gave the marks; it can’t be erased. I really hope they do more programs like their short – it was a standout for me this season. One thing that I want them to work on is their lifts. Occasionally they get a level 3 on a lift and I would like to see all 4s. Their lifts have sort of been standard since they started skating together, which, fair enough, but now I think the time has come to up the difficulty. I would love to see some creativity too. But I hope and expect to see them continue to build!

Yu/Zhang – I was really hoping to see these two back but now I’m not sure what is going on. No Grand Prix assignments – and they are very eligible for the “coming-back-from-injury” category. We saw that really interesting short program at Chinese Nationals, it looked like they were preparing to compete. Here’s a bit of a reminder:

Long story short: I really like this team. What’s going on??

Wang/Wang – Someone just give them a Grand Prix assignment already!! Just let them compete! Why would you keep a good team from competing? Someone please explain. They could be competitive. What do they have to do to catch a break? I expect if we do see them they will probably keep the programs they worked on this past season since we didn’t see much of them, “I Put a Spell On You” and “Life Is Beautiful”. But what I really want to see is them doing Broadway. Remember their “Steppin’ Out” short program? (I can’t find a video of it anywhere! I’m going to cry.) Here is another example. More things like this please!

Tang/Yang – Fourth at Junior Worlds, now they are moving up to Senior and they’ve got one GP assignment – Skate Canada – to help them. I wonder… maybe the TBD at Cup of China too?? I think it will come down to this team and Wang/Wang, if Y/Z are truly out? I think Tang/Yang have a lot of potential and could be a really fun team. I hope they have a good first season in Senior! If you have never seen them before, here’s a video:

Liu/Xie – Here’s a new partnership. Former US figure skater Chelsea Lui will be skating with Zhong Xie to represent China. I’m curious how this partnership is going to work out. They both have had a couple partners over the past couple years, blending different technique, the east meets west – this could be fascinating.

Other Asian Teams and Australia

Ryom/Kim – I think we can all agree on the priority here: new programs. They can even choreograph the programs themselves, I am sure it will be fine. They can do anything they like and Ryom can keep wearing her cat suits. They just can’t do those programs again. I think it must be just really wearing to have to keep doing the same music over and over and over again. New programs will inject new life!

Kim/Deschamps – This new pair was announced back in the fall and now they are now longer? Is that correct? I was really excited for a Korean pair and two skaters I like! I was waiting for some great lifts! But maybe we’ll see them both again in other partnerships… please?

Suzaki/Kihara – It was sad they didn’t get compete in the second half of the season but I was hopeful. Now they have split. I am sad. (Not many splits make me happy… except maybe Stolbova/Klimov.) I was looking forward to perhaps a bit of Japanese competition (see below). Maybe we could get Ami Koga or Sumire Suto back out on the ice in pairs? I feel like Japan could be fielding more pair teams if they really put some energy into it. What about the ton of single men and women skaters who are good but never have a hope of getting out of Japan? Let’s open up an alternative! 

Miura/Ichihashi – Their season was very up and down. They weren’t far off making the JGPF and then they had a disastrous Junior Worlds (or at least I felt like it was). They are going to be Seniors this season and have a good chance at the TBD spot Japan is saving for NHK Trophy, right? (Who else are they going to choose?) I feel like I have no idea what they need except LOTS of competition experience.

Alexandrovskaya/Windsor – I am ever so interested to see how Katie and Harley are progressing… although I am bit worried with an injury, perhaps not much? They have a lot of areas to work on but they are in those difficult first couple of seasons in Seniors after moving up from Juniors. It’s definitely a hard time to navigate – there is so much to work on and not a lot of competition success, and resources, to help bolster all the work that needs to happen. Few teams experience success right away and it seems like a lot of teams don’t make it through the transition. But, I think these two have a bit of an advantage because there is room for them to qualify to international competitions if they are healthy – there spots at 4CC and Worlds just waiting for them!

Russian Teams

Russia had six full time Senior teams this past season and it looked like the field was to poised to get positively crowded. Now I’m not so sure but there will be at least a few more.

Tarasova/Morozov – All I could think last season was that someone needed to coax some expression onto Evgenia and Vladimir’s faces and even more importantly, some kind of connection and chemistry between them. Then the questions was: who? Trankov backed off and Mozer too. I was really curious who the new coach would be. I think Marina Zueva is a great choice, although a bit of a surprise because I didn’t expect them to leave Russia. I think if anyone can supply what they are lacking, she can, and package them well. She’s gonna cut out all the schlock for sure. I think she’s going to enjoy working with a top Russian pair in a grand dame style too.

Zabaijako/Enbert – I don’t know what I want here. I like how they quietly get on with things and I have liked some their programs in the past. But then they seemed to change direction last season and I really didn’t care for their programs and now they are going to repeat the free program!! I don’t know how I’m going to take it? Dare I hope for a good short? It’s something about a snow queen.

Biokova/Kozlovskii – I am thankful that Alexandra and Dmitri are not a newly formed team. I am hoping that even though next season will be their second as Seniors, they will not go through the sophomore slump. I love watching this team, although I do think they need to focus on skating skills and lifts. A bit more polish, a bit more control. They could  up the ante with their jumps if they wanted. During the 2017-18 season, they were working with triple loops and a triple-triple combination and they got there by the end of the season. Maybe they will try to incorporate those elements again? As I said, there is going to be a bit more competition. However, GOE seems to be the name of the game these days. Still, if they are going to get to the top they will need to do something.

Pavliuchenko/Khodykin – I miss these two. We haven’t seen them since compete since January! They are a team that I can see trying to increase their difficulty. I’m not quite sure what that would mean since they are already doing triple flips… a quad twist? However, I think they should really focus on lifts (I think some new positions would be a good idea), skating skills and foremost, finding two really good vehicles for them; programs that will allow Daria to be comfortable and project, while at the same time not being absolutely bonkers (a little bonkers is okay). The short program last season was on the right track. She’s better at serious. Daria is 16 but seems like such a baby still. Do you think she is ever going to grow? That is another consideration but somehow it just doesn’t seem likely.

Efimova/Korovin – I am really interested to see what this team comes up with next. They’ve tried out a lot of styles and I expect they will keep expanding. Whatever they do, I want to see Alisa shine! Unfortunately, it always comes down to the jumps. I think what she really needs is some technique adjustment. This is my theory: her technique has always been a bit wonky but when she was a baby, she could make the rotation, so no one bothered to fix it. Then she grew and it became a problem but as a new pair (and a skater new to pairs), it wasn’t the priority. But she is trying so hard. She needs better technique to work with! I sort of doubt this is will happen and I’m a little worried. They had a medal on the GP last season but they’ve only got one assignment so far. They are high on the list, so maybe Russia is betting they will be able to fill in somewhere else and are saving their TBD at Cup of Russia or maybe Russia is sort of giving them the cold shoulder. I hope it’s the former and not the later.

Kurdriavetseva/Spiridonov – This team has some potential and is another candidate for the Russian TBD. (They were listed as a national team alternate.) They haven’t gotten much international exposure but they weren’t really ready for it either. Maybe they are now. One suggestion would be programs that light them up and show some personality. Here is some video in case you need an introduction. (I think Alisa Efimova wore that dress!)

Okay, hopefully those doubles are triples in the new season. I love her eye roll at the end!

There are some other teams that could shake things up a bit. It will be interesting to see who shows up.

Mishina/Galiamov – They are moving on up! These two are going to be part of the Senior Russian and international pairs scene for sure, confirmed. They’ve got the elements for Senior; now, they just need to make sure they have the material. It sounds like they are keeping their free program but in an extended “Senior” version. I don’t know if it’s the best choice for a Senior aesthetic but their are good arguments for it too – they can focus on improving other areas of their skating, there is a comfort factor as well. I guess I’m okay with it but at minimum I want her to have a new dress and I want them to work on the lifts and for those exits to be faster. And then I want them to have a really fun, flirty short program and for them to look like they are genuinely having a ball and for Anastasia not to look down. If in between all of that happening, she wants to learn and incorporate a more difficult triple jump, I’m on board. I’m pretty sure it’s happening anyway – this girl wills things into being. But I think the performance quality has to be their priority. A thousand and one teams can do big triple twists and land huge throws in Russia. But not many of them can connect with an audience!

Akapova/Shagalov – I don’t know much about this team but I think we will see more of them next season. They are still really new but by the fall they could make a lot of progress. They’ve got the twist and throws anyway. They really need to work on the unison and overall execution. I think he, in particular, is quite good and Fedor is coaching (still?), so there are definitely some good ingredients. It seems to me that they are trying to produce, at least in style, a mini-Stolbova/Klimov. I’m interested in this experiment at the very least. Take a look:

Stolbova/Klimov, right? We’ve got the twist into the throw flip like they did and Carmen on top of it! Wait a minute… did they just basically copy the whole program…?

Poluianova/Sopot – It sounds like these two aren’t continuing. From what I gather they’ve split/he retired. I don’t think it’s been confirmed but I’m kinda not surprised. It wasn’t going to be easy; they were struggling quite a bit last season. I would love to see her continue though. She’s maybe a bit tall to find a partner (I can’t think of any at the moment) but I do love her throws.

Stolbova/Novoselov – Is this going to happen? I thought maybe the whole experiment had just crumbled since we hadn’t heard much during the season but then we got the news that they are training in Perm. But I’m not sure that Novoselov has got a release from the French federation yet and seeing as it’s the French federation, who knows if that will ever happen. If it does, what I’m most interested in seeing is the twist, obviously.

Ustimkina/Rogonov – They got together last season and decided to take a year to build and do shows, so I thought they may actually compete this coming season but that is looking less and less likely. Dmitriev also said something like Alexei couldn’t really compete with Alina. (Can they not do elements??) Too bad. I think they could be a fun team.

European Teams

Petranovic/Souza-Kordeiru – I don’t know if we will be seeing these two this season or at least, anytime soon. It looks like Lana had a pretty serious knee surgery and is still going through rehabilitation, so not sure when they will be back on the ice. If we do see them, I would love for them to work on cleaning up the general messiness. I’ve been theorizing. She is also VERY small, and I mean small-compared-to-other-pair-girls small, and a 31 cm height difference between them (if bios can be trusted) – the largest at Worlds. They always feel like they are in one big rush the whole time but maybe she’s just trying to keep up with him?

Ziegler/Kiefer – Overall, I think Miriam and Severin made a lot of progress last season but with the one big set back of their coach passing away. I’m very curious about their coaching situation now. Who are they with? Wherever they are, I hope Bruno Massot is nearby and that he’s helping them with their twist.

Boys-Eddy/Mayr – The other story in Austrian pairs is that they qualified a second team. Where is Austria going to get the second team???? Well, turns out it is going to be Livio Mayr (who is Austrian and a Junior pair skater last season) and Olivia Boys-Eddy (Canadian Junior), coached by Bruno Marcotte. So, there’s a development! It won’t be a rivalry (yet) but it could be the beginning of one.

Where are my other rivalries? I was looking forward to a Czech and German rivalry but my hopes seem to be kaput.

Abrazhevich/Bidar – This was a new Czech team last season but it sounds like it’s done? Maybe Martin has a new partner?

Duskova/Jakubka – Anna does have a new partner. They paired up last season but didn’t compete since she was recovering from a second knee surgery. But it looks like they are back on the ice and training. We saw a video of sbs triples toes, so I think it’s on and we will have at least one Czech team, fingers crossed. (I am assuming they will be Seniors.)

Hase/Seegert – This team had their best season so far. The big challenge seemed to be getting the free skate under control. They never quite managed it this season, but they did have a few excellent performances of the short. I don’t know whether it was the material or nerves or fatigue or what?? They need figure it out!

Hocke/Blommaert – Another team that broke up… wah.  I thought they were just getting back on track after a tough season but they decided they have insurmountable differences. They are both looking to continue skating though (I’m a bit worried about Blommaert. He doesn’t seem to have the best track record with partners…) I’ve seen a few videos of Annika training. Not sure if she has a new partner or is just keeping up skills. I really hope it’s a partner!

Della Monica/Guarise – Nicole and Matteo have been building over the past few seasons, but this past season, I sort of felt like they reached a plateau. They did well, especially to reach the GPF, but they did not do as well as I think they were hoping (or could have) at either the Europeans or Worlds. And their programs didn’t help. I didn’t find either particularly interesting, but I also felt their programs contained quite a bit of repeated material from previous programs. More than anything else, I really want different material for these guys. Perhaps a new choreographer?

Ghilardi/Ambrosini – They gained a lot of valuable competition experience this year but they didn’t finish in the best fashion. It would have been nice if they had been able to do a clean free at Worlds. Still, I think they could be a fun team to watch but have a lot of work to do. I do think her jump technique is a bit of a problem – not only for side by side jumps but also throws… a bit like Petranovic. I hope they address it.

Barquero/Maestu – I was very surprised and sad to hear that this team split. They were doing so well! But I guess it was unexpected all round. It sounds like Maestu had to have surgery (accident or long-standing injury, I’m not sure) and was advised to not continue elite sport. If he can’t skate, I hope we see her again. Are there any partners in Spain?

James/Cipres – They were so close! I am so glad they are coming back for another season, although it sound like their attention will be divided so I’m not sure how it’s going to go? I think in terms of programs they can continue in the same vein but I would love to see something… more. Not sure what but I trust these guys to keep it fresh and surprise me.

I did wonder if the French Junior team, Hamon/Strekalin would be moving up to Senior to take advantage of the French momentum but no word (that I know of) yet. Apparently though they are going to Zimmerman. All of France is going to be there soon!

Jones/Boyadji – They just keep going and you have to support them because they just seem to love what they do. I just really want Zoe to rethink her hair.

I want to know: where is Chtchetinina? I think this girl deserves a partner.

Vernikov/Krasnopolski  – He’s back! He was skating a Lake Placid competition with a new partner. I did wonder if Kops/Tsoglin, the Junior Israeli team, would move up this season but they split. So, I guess they called up Evgeni and he’s back to represent.

Canadian Teams

Moore-Towers/Marinaro – Here is another pair that had a good season but, when I consider it, I think it could have been better. They missed a couple key elements at a few competitions. I’m sure they will want to do even better this season. They are in a slightly new coaching situation – still with Bruno Marcotte but now in Oakville. I think it will be interesting to see how they come out. The one thing I want to see improvement in is their twist. I feel like it’s holding them back.

Walsh/Michaud – There is definitely stuff to work on here but they seem to be (overall) tough competitors and are able to keep it together. That is a major advantage for them. Honestly, they are surpassing better teams because of it. I would like to see them work on the twist too (it’s a Canadian issue). They only have one GP as the moment but they are another team high on the list that could pick up another assignment. There is also the TBD spot at Skate Canada but the Canadian field has quite a few more teams this season, so I feel like the TBD for Skate Canada will go to another team.

Ruest/Wolfe – She went through surgery in the off season (knee, I think) but she appears to be back on the ice and with an GP assignment, I expect to see them competing. Although I really like them they are not the best competitors and with more teams pushing these two, they are going to need to decide how much they want it and be gritty.

Matte/Ferland – I think these two are super cute. I hope to see some improvements in their second Senior season. They are another team in that difficult transition period. I hope they make it through! Steady forward movement – that’s all they need.

Brasseur/Bardei – There is a bit of a question mark here but I think these two are still together. I would love to see them in some international competitions this season. I think they are a strong possibility for the TBD spot. The twist is terrific and they do look good together. Tracy is always right.

Wang/Boudreau-Audet – I am intrigued. I am happy to see Francis back (let’s not waste a good pairs boy, girls) and I don’t know much about her, but she’s switching countries from the US to Canada, which seems like a big step, so she’s gotta be committed.

I think Maxime Deschamps is out there with a partner too. I hope so!

Iliushechkina/Bilodeau – I am REALLY looking forward to seeing these two. I think they could have a good first season. They know what they want and are both experienced pairs skaters. Lubov brings so much to the table and Charlie is a good partner. Her experience on tour I think will be great for her performing (and nerves) too. It’s still early days but I think the fact that they have both had time away and chose to come back to competitive skating will translate to some serious pairs skating.

American Teams 

I think having two spots may help to revive US pairs – it’s been chaotic and with a sense of panic. This is just a prediction. I could be totally off. Stellato/Bartholomay are no longer together (which did not surprise me) but the rest of the big American pairs are still together.

Cain/Leduc – Ashley and Tim are the defending American champions but I don’t feel like they are the clear leader in the field. They are going to have to work to keep the title and they are going to want to stay ahead of other teams internationally like Ryom/Kim and Kiefer/Severin too. I think they have really improved but I would like to see them focus on the throws.

Kayne/O’Shea – What I am really hoping for here are some great programs. Performance is always what I want from them, so I hope they can deliver. I do wonder a bit if we are going to ever see Tarah fully back after her knee injury but they still are one of the top teams in the US. Last season was a bit tough but they were going through lots of changes. I hope this season will be a bit more steady. 

Scimeca/Knierim – I think having time to recover, recuperate and rest and then train really solidly has probably been what this team needed. They’ve been working hard on jump technique, so they aren’t ignoring the issues. I am curious about this new training center with Robin Szolkowy. I’ve never loved their material in the past – I hope they can produce something that I find appealing. I wonder who they are working with for choreography? It turns out it’s Benoit Richaud. I think he could be a good choice for them. I have a good feeling. I think they could be on top again.

Denny/Frazier – I feel we saw a bit of forward momentum this past season but we need to see more. I want to see consistency and performance. It’s interesting that they are going back to “The Lion King”. I don’t know if going back to a program is a good sign or not? It was a good program for them and I feel like they need something that animates them, which it could do. Here is a reminder:

Lu/Mitrofanov – I am just curious if Audrey has grown at all. Maybe she never will. I am really rooting for them to get through the sophomore year (in Senior) and have some good competitions. I think maybe the big thing for them will be maintaining their place in the field and not being surpassed by some of the newer teams, like…

Calalang/Johnson – It’s going to be their sophomore year too but I like their potential. I want to see programs that grab my interest. Right now they have one GP assignment, which is big for them, getting out there on the international scene, but there is still one TBD spot for Skater America and this team is in the running (also Lu/Mitrofanov). It usually goes to a new team that doesn’t have another assignment, so they aren’t my top pick, but definitely in the running.

Feng/Nyman – This team is my top pick for the TBD spot. They are moving up from Junior where they were one of the few teams that could compete with the Russian pairs. So, you know they have the goods. They are my top pick because: (a) they don’t have any GP assignment, (b), they can’t do Junior if none comes along (that is out), and (c) I think the US wants to promote this team. If they do get some competitions and skate well, they could make a bit of a splash.

Other American teams we may see in Senior Bs and Challengers are: Digerness/ Neudecker, Pfund/Santillan (back from injury), Serafini/Tran (continuing to build – they could be a sleeper), and Chan/Howe (very intrigued by this partnership!) 

Okay, did I cover everyone? I think I maybe did, at least everyone we might see on the Grand Prix. I think it’s going to be a good season!

2019 GP Pairs

World Championships Pairs

The World Championships in Saitama have come and gone, and it all feels a bit like a sleep-deprived dream. I did manage to stay up and watch all the pairs live. The things I do for skating. It feels like it’s been a long time coming… maybe almost too long? I did feel that some teams here would have benefited from the season being not quite so long, although the reserve is also true, it helped other teams. It’s all comes down to the very difficult balance of maintaining form and peaking at the right time – what a contradiction! While it wasn’t perhaps the best skated competition – the free programs in general were a bit rough, a bit nervy, with the exception of the final flight – it certainly delivered in suspense. It did not turn out to be anti-climatic!

Actually, I think on the whole I was pleasantly surprised with the teams at Worlds and how they are all developing. I think everyone is making improvements. It was too bad that the field was small, especially now that the free skate has been expanded to 20 teams. It really should have been 21 teams (still on the small side) but Suzaki/Kihar and Alexandrovskaya/Windsor were both out with injuries. I guess the upside is that everyone made it to the free skate – great experience in itself – instead of one lone team being left out. That would have felt very sad. It also meant that I could kind of keep my cool during the short program in the knowledge that teams with wonderful, clean skates were not going to cut. So, in the end, it was a bit of a win-win.

I don’t think I can hide that I wanted my Chinese teams and Baby Russians  to skate well and receive the love and adoration from the judges they so richly deserve. I also really was looking forward to James/Cipres skating their way to a gold medal. (It seemed in the cards.) All my dreams did not come true but there were still some things that made me very happy.

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Junior World Pairs

I just want to do some commenting on Junior Worlds before Senior Worlds is upon us. I mostly cared about the pairs, like I do, so that is what I am going to focus on. With the difficulty and risk the these pairs are attempting while still pretty new and young, it was nice to see a lot of good skating. The podium was a Russian sweep, as expected. They are all very strong teams but it was interesting to see how these teams fared against each other and dealt with the close competition between one another. It was also good to see these teams after a long break, at least for the fans, since the Grand Prix. You could see that many teams have improved in the past four months.

junior world

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