|The performance of the night, courtesy of Japan|
If someone yesterday predicted to me that, after the pairs short program at the 2012 World Championships:
-Volosozhar/Trankov are in eighth place, out of the final group, and in a virtual tie with Berton/Hotarek
-Takahashi/Tran are in the top three
-Kavaguti/Smirov are out of the final 2 groups
-Bazarova/Larionov are the leading Russians
.....I would've laughed in their face.
Yet such has become reality. Insert platitude about ice being slippery here, etc.
Due to time constraints, I started watching from Denney/Coughlin.
Caydee Denney/John Coughlin of the US of A are up, skating to East of Eden. Right. So is East of Eden now the music of choice for the less-than-refined American skater? Well, it's only expected--that music can make any skater look good and plump up any cynic's shriveled old heart. Don't underestimate those Michelle Kwan associations. Miss Denney actually looks decent in her dress, but I would advise toning down the frosted eyeshadow even more. Good 3twist, good SBS 3Ts and throw 3F. Boring step sequence. The big elements are there and they clearly have lots of confidence, but their positions, lines, extension, refinement in general.....ugh. Unfortunate juxtaposition with the emotional, refined music. A solid performance nonetheless, and 62.48 into first place for now.
Narumi Takahashi/Mervin Tran, Imagine, representing Japan. What a breath of fresh air. Amazingly, against all odds, Narumi Takahashi actually lands her SBS 3S. Someone break out the celebratory champagne. Their positions and refinement look especially divine skating after Denney/Coughlin. Neat little 3twist, possible slight touchdown of free foot on the throw 3S, but what a gorgeous SP. It's the best-choreographed short program of the pairs field this season, even the transitions are achingly pretty and smoothly integrated into the program. Lovely positions in the lift, and a level 4 step sequence that actually goes along with the music. Cool entry into the death spiral to close. They should be proud of that performance, and I'll cut someone if that doesn't go into the lead over Denney/Coughlin. And so it does, 65.37. Fantastic.
Maylin Hausch/Daniel Wende of Deutschland are up. Big wipeout on throw 3S (looked rather painful), but decent recovery on 3T. Rather pedestrian skating and choreography, and not much attention is paid to the music throughout the whole thing. 48.48 total score, not surprising.
Next group up on the ice, AKA Team Russia and one other token international team (the Italians). Were those some boos when Ottavio Cinquanta's name was announced prior to the warm-up? I approve.
Yuko Kavaguti/Sasha Smirnov of the Russian Federation are first to skate. Mr. Smirnov needs to shave. Whoever's been styling Ms. Kavaguti for the past two seasons or so should be given a pay raise, she looks rather younger and prettier with her hair and makeup like that than she did a few years ago. SBS 3Ts landed a little forward on the landing, and to be honest, this SP is actually not bad. The music is just a bit too cool for them and would be better if they had a more languid vibe, but some of the choreographical detail is actually quite good. Ok 3twist, throw 3Lo....and WHAT. Mr. Smirnov trips and falls exiting the lift and brings down Ms. Kavaguti with him. That's a mandatory 2 point deduction, and it's going to hurt. Kavaguti/Smirnov are clearly shaken, the death spiral is rather abysmal-looking, very low and awkward on the ice, it definitely looked like Ms. Kavaguti's head was actually touching the ice (bad). Looking at the protocols, I'm surprised that didn't get more negative GOEs for their death spiral. I'm really not sure why two judges saw it worthy of +1 GOE. The camera pans to Tamara Moskvina looking....not pleased. And not surprisingly, they receive 59.59 into fourth place for the time being, clearly out of the final group going into the LP. All those mistakes definitely added up. Well, that opens up quite a few doors for the other teams.
Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov, also of Team Russia, are next, skating to the daintiest Tosca ever. What's the point of skating to Tosca if you're not going to pile on the drama? SBS 3T are the first element, which are very much out of sync due to the fact that Ms. Bazarova doesn't really get off the ice, and Mr. Larionov steps out of the landing. Superb height on the 3twist, best of the field by far. I would give it +2 GOE at least, if not +3. Nice throw 3F and death spiral, but the program and performance is so bloodless. There's not much Tosca in the interpretation, and frankly, not much interpretation or performance going on at all. It could be any violin-laden vaguely classical music in the background, and it wouldn't make an inch of difference. At least Bazarova/Larionov's skating is nice to look at. Cool swingy entry into the lift, really lovely air positions from Ms. Bazarova. Somehow, Mr. Larionov falls and brings down Ms. Bazarova during the Dramatik Death ending pose. Ms. Bazarova does not look pleased at all. Looking at the protocols, they don't get a deduction for the fall, which seems right as I'm pretty sure they fell after the music ended. Bazarova/Larionov receive 65.02, just slightly behind Takahashi/Tran. Personally, I would've scored them closer to Denney/Coughlin.
Stefania Berton/Ondrej Hotarek, not of Team Russia, are next to skate. Finally, a bit of spirit and verve, big contrast with Bazarova/Larionov. Good SBS 3Ts, but suspiciously low 3twist with a crashy catch. Negative GOE for sure, but it's amazing that they can actually squish three rotations into that twist. Low and slow lift, throw 3Lo with lean on the landing. Typical CoP step sequence, albeit done with a bit more spice than the usual long meandering stuff. They lack the refinement of some of the Russian pairs, but they have good energy and are pleasant enough to watch. It's a decent performance overall, and Berton/Hotarek receive 60.39, a new season's best, and move into fourth place for the time being.
Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov, of Team Russia and gold medal favorites, come onto the ice and so the dulcet tones of Evanescence are most unfortunately heard. Great height on the 3twist as usual, but there's a clear hiccup on the landing by Ms. Volosozhar. Good SBS 3Ts, and a big obvious 2foot by Ms. Volosozhar on the throw 3F. Hopefully the judges notice that (and they do: -1.10 GOE in total). Good ice coverage, speed on the lift, but choreographically, this program is kind of lacking. The step sequence is good, but they've performed it with more energy in the past. Death spiral...HOLY SHIT. Mr. Trankov somehow falls during the death spiral and brings down Ms. Volosozhar with him. Mandatory 2 point deduction, and they'll get virtually nothing on the death spiral after the pertinent GOE deductions are applied. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. What a terrible day for all the Russian pairs, so many freak falls. The door is left wide open for Savchenko/Szolkowy. Ms. Volosozhar and Mr. Trankov look very, very displeased, and skate away from each other after the ending pose. Hmmmm. On a completely irrelevant note, Mr. Trankov would make a perfect Catholic martyr in one of those old paintings where said martyr is being slowly disemboweled on a spiked wheel while praying to God, eyes upturned towards the heavens in fevered ecstasy. Those eyes, that anguish. Um, yeah. Rather sullen looks all around in the kiss-and-cry, and Volosozhar/Trankov receive 60.48 and go into fourth place.....!!! And I predicted that they would win this year...oops. Frankly, I would not have been surprised if Volosozhar/Trankov got held up in the rankings even after the mistakes, but they were accordingly penalized, even in PCS (I'm impressed). Amusingly, Takahashi/Tran are still in first place. Unbelievable.
Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford of Canada lead off the final group, skating to the familiar strains of Aranjuez. Good 3twist, fall on the SBS 3Lz for Mr. Radford and a hand down for Ms. Duhamel. But good for them for going for it. The lift could be smoother and prettier, but it's very gutsy of them to put the throw 3F so late in the program. But otherwise...I just don't get this team (or their PCS for that matter). Duhamel/Radford have good energy and speed, and this SP is not a bad program but any means, but there's something gawky and awkward about their style and skating that rankles me in a way that I cannot quite elucidate. It's a very sum-of-the-whole-is-less-than-their-parts feeling. Somehow, they score 63.69, and move into third place. De gustibus non est disputandum, I guess.
Wenjing Sui/Cong Han, of the People's Republic of China, are next in their senior debut. Big 3twist with her hand over the head, but a fall on the SBS 3T for Miss Sui. Huge height on the throw 3F. Ack, I admit I'm so conflicted about this team....their basic skating is choppy and unrefined, their unison is suspect, and their positions, posture, and refinement in general is lacking, but this hick short program is my guilty pleasure. I love Sui/Han's energy and spunk, the fact that they're a Chinese team skating to a hick program of all things, and really, the choreography is actually superbly clever in drawing a smokescreen over their weaknesses with all that busy content. I like the footwork in this SP (it doesn't meander that much or feel like typical CoP pairs footwork), and Mr. Han pretending he's whipping his lasso during the death spiral never fails to make me laugh. Sui/Han receive 63.27, and move into fourth place for the time being. Even if they are my guilty pleasure, Sui/Han are a very good example of a team whose scores for the various PCS categories should be much more disparate. Dock the points for SS, etc., but pile them on for IN. Too bad that never actually happens. Also---who was the judge who gave those OTT marks to Sui/Han? 8.50 for SS?! Now, that is indefensible.
Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy, the penultimate pair, are next, skating for Germany to the soundtrack of Angels and Demons. Will they go for the throw 3A? In my opinion, not worth it--their super throw 3F with lots of GOE racks up enough points already, the throw 3A isn't worth that much to balance out the risk, and after Volosozhar/Trankov's implosion, it's even more unnecessary. Slooooow entry into the throw 3A, but they land it!!! Clearly two-footed, but it's the best attempt they've had so far. I'm impressed, very impressed. It's a huge risk, and they only get 6.64 points in total after the GOE deductions are applied, when their throw 3F with much less risk landed cleanly would usually get them over 7 points (e.g. they received 7.50 for their throw 3F at the GPF in the LP). I suppose this is what makes them champions. Mr. Szolkowy turns out on the landing of his SBS 3T, does a very nice lift, and does not fall on the death spiral. The undoubtedly level 4 footwork is a bit too long, and looks (and feels) very, very difficult. As a whole, the performance was rather muted, and the choreography is nothing really special (especially compared to Pina)---but that should easily go into the lead. Savchenko/Szolkowy receive 68.63, easily into first place, but it's really not that wide of a lead over Takahashi/Tran. But their 8-point advantage over Volosozhar/Trankov will definitely help going into the long program.
Qing Pang/Jian Tong of China round out the final group with their SP to some Chopin nocturne. They begin with SBS 3Ts, which Mr. Tong steps out of (it seems to be a common theme tonight). The rotation looked suspect, and I'm not surprised they received a UR call. Blah choreography--did Lori Nichol choreograph this SP? It sure feels like it. Big 3twist, and good height on the throw 3Lo. Elements aside, this program is quite bland. The step sequence, like many others, meanders along for a bit too long and could use more speed. But as a whole, Pang/Tong skated well (especially as it is their first international competition this season) and should be close to Savchenko/Szolkowy. And they are--Pang/Tong score 67.10, just a hair under the lead into second place. Not sure if I agree with the fact that they received the highest PCS of the night, though.
So, the final standings for the SP are:
1. Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy (68.63)
2. Qing Pang/Jian Tong (67.10)
3. Narumi Takahashi/Mervin Tran (65.37)
4. Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov (65.02)
5. Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (63.69)
6. Wenjing Sui/Cong Han (63.27)
7. Caydee Denney/John Coughlin (62.48)
8. Tatiana Volosozhar/Trankov (60.48)
9. Stefania Berton/Ondrej Hotarek (60.39)
10. Mary Beth Marley/Rockne Brubaker (59.62)
11. Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov (59.59)
12. Jessica Dube/Sebastien Wolfe (55.83)
13......and so on.
Well, color me surprised.