2015 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships Preview - Pairs: Canada and China
The Four Continents Figure Skating Championships starts next week, and with that comes more previews. I didn’t do them for Europeans. Next up are the Pairs! Of course, the Russians are not here because they were at Europeans but that doesn’t mean the field is weak by any means. This time, it’s all about the Chinese and the reigning Grand Prix Final Champions from Canada – who are World Champion contenders. Throw in some promising pairs from Canada and the United States, and you have what should be a good competition. There are only ten pairs here, so I will be discussing them all.
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford
First up, the favorites, and yes, there’s only one:
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford – The Reigning Grand Prix Final Champions from Canada, they have been untouchable this season. I don’t see that changing. While I’m not a huge fan of them artistically, technically they have the hardest programs in the world. They are also the most consistent. They have been undefeated so far this season, and I don’t see that changing with this competition.
Sui Wenjing and Han Cong
Next up, the podium contenders:
Sui Wenjing and Han Cong – Although they are young, being Chinese, they have some big tricks. I simply love this pair, and they’ve had a good season. They won two silver medals on the Grand Prix circuit on way to winning the bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final – highest of the three Chinese pairs there and higher than future European Champions Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia. It was also their second bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final, where they were last at in 2010. They’ve wont his competition twice, including last year, but that is unlikely to happen. They should be a solid silver, though.
Peng Cheng and Zhang Hao – The odd couple of figure skating – she’s 17 and he’s 30. For some reason, it works, though. However, this season has not been their best. Last year, they were eighth at the Olympics and Fifth at Worlds. This year, they started out with a sub-par performance to place third at Skate America before winning Cup of China and then skating into their second-straight fourth place finish behind Sui and Han. I don’t see them challenging Sui and Han, but they should be a sold bronze here if they skate their elements the way they can.
Pang Qing and Tong Jian
Top Five Contenders
We now move onto the top five contenders, who could challenge if podium contenders make mistakes:
Pang Qing and Tong Jian – This was definitely a surprise for me. They are definitely the veterans, and are definitely the most decorated pair here – two World titles, five Four Continents titles, and an Olympic Silver medal in 2010. However, those days are behind them. At 35, they are by far the oldest pair here. They are absolutely beautiful to watch and are unmatched artistically in this field, but it’s the technical elements that they lack. Their component scores should help a bit, but unless they can skate cleanly, it’ll be hard to get near the podium. However, they have not competed all year – this will be their season debut – so there’s no telling what to expect from them. They have come out of retirement in order to end their career on home ice at Worlds next month at home in Shanghai – something all three Chinese pairs are thinking about this week; you can count on that.
Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim – They have had a decent season, with two fourth place finishes on the Grand Prix circuit on way to winning their first National title. They have a Quad Twist, and it is beautiful. If they can land that cleanly in their free, it could push them in to the top four, but the podium is out of the reach unless there are serious mistakes by the Chinese pairs.
Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier – Yes, I realize that this makes six teams I’ve mentioned in the top five, but hear me out. They have had a really good debut senior season with a second place finish at Skate America ahead of Peng and Zhang – the highest finish for an American pair on the Grand Prix circuit since 2006. They are a very technical team, and their free program is great. If they are clean, they can certainly challenge Scimeca and Knierim for the top five.
And the top ten aka everyone else:
Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea – It’s tough because they are so talented. On paper, they can challenge both of the other American teams for top four of five status, but if all three do what they’re capable of, I see them being the lowest of the three teams. They are the reigning Four Continents silver medalists, though, so if they can really turn it on, watch for them to push for as close to the podium as possible. Like Denney and Frazier, though, podium finishing is very hard with the Chinese teams.
Lubov Iliushechinka and Dylan Moschovitch – The second of the three Canadian teams here, this is their first season together. They have a great season, though they were the less heralded of the two new Canadian teams, the other which I’ll get to in a sec. They won two b-competitions on way to the silver medal at Canadian nationals. It’s tough to see them doing any better than seventh or eighth, though, especially with the American pairs being so strong. I think they’ll be battling the third Canadian team.
Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro – The more heralded, I think the spotlight they got wasn’t good for them, because they have not done well this season. They were sixth and seventh in their Grand Prix events on way to finishing fourth at Canadian Nationals, meaning this is the end of their season, as they are not going to Worlds. (They finished behind Duhamel/Radford, Iliushechinkia/Moscovitch and junior level team Seguin/Bilodeau). If they can get it together, they might able to challenge Iliushechinka and Moscovitch, but as it stands, the best I see them doing eighth or ninth.
And last but not least –
Narumi Takahashi and Ryuichi Kihara – The reigning two-time Japanese National Champions, this is their second season together. While Takahashi is a former World Bronze medalist with former partner Mervin Tran of Canada, she and Kihara have not gelled as a pair. Granted, Kihara hadn’t done pairs prior to being paired with Takahashi, but still. It’s hard to see them doing anything but last here. Even if they do their best here, they should still be well behind the other two Canadian teams.
So, here are my predictions – full since this is a small competition:
GOLD – Duhamel and Radford – They will stay undefeated.
SILVER – Sui and Han – Solid silver for the Grand Prix Bronze medalists.
BRONZE – Peng and Zhang – Bronze for them if they can keep it together.
Fourth – Pang and Tong – Maybe this is a bit of wishful thinking, but I love them.
Fifth – Scimeca and Knierim – Come on Quad Twist!
Sixth – Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier
Seventh – Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea
Eighth – Lubov Iliushechinka and Dylan Moscovitch
Ninth – Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro
Tenth – Narumi Takahashi and Ryuichi Kihara
Below I have included a poll for your favorite podium contender is, as well a video I found on YouTube of Duhamel and Radford’s gold medal winning free skate from the Grand Prix Final. Next up are the Ice Dancers, and that’s it with Four Continents starting Thursday.