So if you're familiar with my Opining series, you know that I usually go through the different disciplines and give you my biggest highlights and takeaways. But you also know that there are times when I'll just dedicate an entire post about one skater or one highlight. And this is one of them. 2015 Rostelecom Cup was full of great skating, but for me, what it called out most was the incredible depth of pair skating this season.
Comparing #CoR15 to #WC2015
First off, just looking at the pairs at Rostelecom Cup - and, of course, providing the usual caveat that scores are not directly comparable between competitions and seasons - the top 6 scores at the competition this weekend would have been good enough to be in the top 7 at last season's Worlds. And it's actually important to note that scores at Worlds do tend to be relatively higher than those of the regular season. So even if scores have gone up this season in general (and that may be the case), the relative comparison of scores between Rostelecom Cup and Worlds should still be very good.
Besides the fact that pairs have just been upping their game this season - both in skating quality and in technical elements - we have pairs who are making a return this season to an already crowded field. Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov took last season off and are back. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov took Worlds off last season and are back.
Aliona Savchenko took last season off after Robin Szolkowy retired (and now coaching pairs, and also sporting a full head of hair), and is back this season with Bruno Massot. And while most of the skating world was focused on Rostelecom Cup, they made a brilliant debut at Tallinn Trophy and automatically inserted themselves into the Worlds podium picture.
Pairs with quads
We've already talked about how Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov have two throw quads in their free skate. We saw them attempt them again at Rostelecom Cup. We also saw Cheng Peng/Hao Zhang throw a quad salchow in addition to their quad twist - to a somewhat hilarious result from Zhang's reaction.
They join other two-quadders in pairs skating, including the arguable catalysts of the quad revolution (pun intented), Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford, and the originators of the two-quad free skate, Wenjing Sui/Cong Han. Neither team has yet to put both quads in their free skates this season (Duhamel/Radford planned it at one competition but singled their quad lutz), but you better be sure that at least one of them will be competing two quads at the Grand Prix Final.
The increase in quads this season in pairs is unprecedented. Here's a (non-exhaustive) list of the quads that we know are in pairs' repertoires.
- Duhamel/Radford: throw quad salchow, throw quad lutz
- Sui/Han: quad twist, throw quad salchow
- Kavaguti/Smirnov: throw quad salchow, throw quad loop
- Peng/Zhang: quad twist, throw quad salchow
- Scimeca/Knierim: quad twist
- Iliushechkina/Moscovitch: throw quad flip
- James/Cipres, Kayne/O'Shea, Yu/Jin: throw quad salchow
- Speculation on quads in the works: Scimeca/Knierim throw quad salchow, Stolbova/Klimov throw quad salchow
And as a result, it would not at all be a surprise if some sort of quad element is allowed in the short program and/or quads get an increase in valuation by the time the 2018 Olympics come around. If either of those happen, the landscape completely changes, especially for a team like Volosozhar/Trankov, who do not have a quad and have said that they have no desire to add a quad.
Deepest pairs field ever?
So all these means that pair skating has rarely been this exciting. And I would contend that this is the deepest pairs field in the history of skating. We've really never seen such a tremendous lineup of pairs in terms of their all-around capabilities. Just off the top of my head, I can count at least 20 pairs who have top 10 potential at Worlds. And when you can make statements like that, you know it's special.
And then of course, there's the fact that at least a couple of these pairs won't even end up qualifying for Worlds because of country qualification limits. So here goes: