Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pic of the Week: Destination L.A.

Double header pic this week and we begin with some doubt. The rumors have been swirling that last season's World Champs, Delobel and Schoenfelder, may not make it to Los Angeles due to injury. They are still listed as one of three teams competing and there has been no official announcement, but again, the rumors are there. They may not factor in to the equation at all in L.A. This news comes during a season where the International Ice Dance field has been put in a Zip-Loc Bag and shook! There's no telling what will happen in L.A.

Last season's silver medalists, Virtue and Moir of Canada, recently lost to recently crowned U.S. Champs Davis and White at the Four Continents Cup in Vancouver. Davis and White were just 6th at last season's Worlds. There are the Russian Champs Khoklova and Novitski who won the recent European Championships and have seemed to take the skating world by storm, but they withdrew from the Grand Prix Final and didn't pit themselves against the best in the world. The other Russian Team of Domnina and Shabalin has lost ground this season as they have been plagued by injury. They did manage a silver at the Grand Prix Final before withdrawing from both Russian Nationals and Europeans. Americans Belbin and Agosto are in the mix, but they are coming off an injury that forced them out of both the Grand Prix Final and U.S. National Championships. Three other teams to keep a close eye on, French team of Pechalat and Bourzat (4th at Europeans) who have been surging recently, Italians Faiella and Scali (2nd at Europeans) who have moved into the top tier of ice dancers this season, and the Brits Kerr and Kerr (3rd at Europeans) who have made steady improvements this season. All of these teams are so evenly matched it's basically a crapshoot in L.A. as to who will win!

Last season's Pairs Champs at Worlds, Savchenko and Szolkowy, have been given a run for their money this season. After winning both their Grand Prix Events this season, they were upstaged at the Grand Prix Final by two powerful Chinese teams. Dan and Hao Zhang took the silver medal at the Grand Prix Final after also winning both their Grand Prix Events. They also won the bronze at the recent Four Continents Cup. It was Pang and Tong that took top honors at the Grand Prix Final, a feat they repeated at the Four Continents Cup. In fairness, Savchenko and Szolkowy refound their swagger at the European Championships with a win there. These three teams will likely dominate the competition in L.A.

However, there are plenty of challengers to the aforementioned triple threat. Two teams from Canada have been skating well: Dube and Davison as well as Duhamel and Buntin. Both teams have been skating well this season, Dube and Davison recently nabbing the silver medal at the Four Continents Cup. We must also consider two of the teams from Russia: Kawaguchi and Smirnov and Mukhortova and Trankov. Both of these teams were right behind the Germans at Europeans and can challenge if they skate well. The Ukranians Volosozhar and Morozov have looked strong this season. We must also mention the home crowd favorites, Americans McLaughlin and Brubaker, who if they can skate well, should also contend.

Refresher course? Take a look at both the winning programs from last season's World Championships.

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