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Analysis: Pairs figure skating short program

For television watchers, we only got yesterday’s short program competition. Nonetheless, what we saw was generally good. Here are some takeaways from last night’s event:

1. The Russian pair seems unstoppable, but they might be stopped.

Last night featured another herculean performance by Russian pair Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. It also featured a tremendous skate by my personal favorites, Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. It was no surprise that the judges awarded the lead  to the Russians, although the 4.5 point margin seemed excessive. That indicates judges are ready to crown the Russians with a gold medal if they don’t make any major mistakes this evening.

Unfortunately, it’s not guaranteed that the Russians will not make any major mistakes. They flubbed in their last head-to-head with the Germans, who skated an elegant performance at the Grand Prix Final. Their long program set to the music of “Jesus Christ Superstar” lacks the intricate footwork and the elegance of the German pairs’ program to The Nutracker’s “Pas de Deux.” Plus, will the judges be willing to support a man in yellow pants?

Trankov’s yellow pants are so weird they have their own Twitter feed. Really.

For the Germans to win tonight, they will need their greatest performance to that wonderful piece of music, and a little help from their rivals. It will be interesting to watch. When it comes to these high-pressure situations, it’s never fully clear what they will do.  Faced with the same prospect in 2010, Savchenko and Szolkowy broke down.

2. Castelli and Schnapir might be ready for prime time.

Yesterday, I got some flack for the grimness of posting skating’s most horrible, but redemptive, moments. But there was something important to take away from that post: All those pairs stayed together, and have accomplished great things.

American pairs have traditionally failed in this aspect, with the exception of Marissa Castelli and Simon Schnapir. Last night, we saw a pair that is not enormously talented again grow in power and confidence.

What this pair lacks is the consistency, the deep knees and the unison of the top competitors. But they are getting better. With another sharp routine, they could make the top 10, a true accomplishment. Here’s to hoping they can stay together for another two to three years. At this rate, they could end their careers as one of the top five or six in the world.

3. NBC doesn’t give any love to pairs.

Although they forced us to watch what seemed like a gajillion programs in the unfulfilling team competition, we only got the opportunity to watch five or six? pairs in prime time. By the way, the third-place team is named Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov. They are an up-and-coming pair in a surprising position. They deserved to be seen!

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