There’s a lot to be said about how much pairs has evolved over the past decade. We are just coming off of the deepest, most talented Olympic pair competition last season. And though the depth isn’t quite what we saw last year, this week’s pairs event at the World Championships will be exciting, and potentially surprising. Canada, China, Germany, and Russia have ruled the top of pairs for over two decades - that might change this week in Saitama.
World Championships predictions
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GOLD Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres FRA - In January, James/Cipres became the first French pair to win a European title since 1932. This week, they could do exactly the same, except for the World title. After their breakthrough season last year, where they took bronze at Worlds, they have been unstoppable - winning every competition this season, including the Grand Prix Final. In the past couple of seasons, they have found their own modern voice and combined it with increased sophistication. For a pair who was unsure of what their future plans might have been after the Olympics were done, they have certainly taken it up another gear this year.
SILVER Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov RUS - On paper, their season really has looked to be very strong - three international titles, their second Russian gold, and podium at both Europeans and the Grand Prix Final. But many of those performances have come with mistakes, especially in their side-by-sides, which have plagued them since last season. For them to overtake James/Cipres, which they couldn’t at Europeans, they will need to be much cleaner.
BRONZE Wenjing Sui/Cong Han CHN - News of another injury that has sidelined Wenjing Sui for a few weeks certainly doesn’t help their preparations in a season that has already been curtailed to begin with. It happened in practice in mid-February, and they had to take a bit of time off, which will make it difficult for them to get to the peak conditioning that they were hoping to. The potential we saw at Four Continents was massive, but it’s unfortunate that we might not get to see it in Saitama.
4. Cheng Peng/Yang Jin CHN - As long as they have issues with their salchows, it will be tough for them to get on the podium. That said, the top pairs this season haven’t been the most consistent either, so a lot of their chances might come with how they skate and where they place after the short program. They have grown immensely this season and could be the surprise on the podium if they hit.
5. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro CAN - An errant lift in the free skate cost them the biggest title of their career at Four Continents, but it was still very much a triumph for them. Much like they did last season, Moore-Towers/Marinaro have grown steadily and are looking more and more like they will be peaking when it matters most.
6. Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert RUS - We haven’t seen Zabiiako/Enbert since the Russian Championships, where they took silver. Their withdrawal from Europeans was due to medical reasons for Enbert. It’s been a few months since, and their recovery since late December will say a lot about their podium chances here.
7. Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitrii Kozlovskii RUS - With a good number of incumbent pairs in Saitama this week, Boikova/Kozlovskii is one of the few debuts here - they are also the most anticipated of the bunch. Their basics are tremendous, and in their very first season on the senior international scene, they are already one of the best. Dark horses.
8. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise ITA - After a career-high top five finish for them at home last year, Della Monica/Guarise had some high hopes of continuing that momentum this season. But inconsistency have kept them from really breaking through to the top tier of pairs. They have all the goods to challenge for top five again, but can they skate cleanly?>
9. Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc USA - The magic number is ten. After the US pairs had a disappointing Worlds last season, they were left with one spot in the pairs’ event. And it is now on the new US champs to finish in the top ten to get that second spot back. And what a season it’s been for them - they have unexpectedly surged in resilience and confidence after Cain’s concussion in December. They are ready to break 200 in international competition.
10. Minerva Fabienne Hase/Nolan Seegert GER - It really started off with that great short program at Skate America. The German pair who has been the second- and third-best of the past few years have emerged this season as the leading pair after Savchenko/Massot took their hiatus a year ago. They are coming off a very strong performance at Challenge Cup, and they will be looking for a first top 10 finish at Worlds.