Defending the figure skating system — sort of

The current system for the inherently controversial task of judging figure skating competitions is the worst system ever designed — except the last one. And except the systems they used in snowboarding, freestyle skiing, gymnastics and pretty much everything else that’s decided by judges.

The old system had that old familiar air to it. Judges gave marks for technical merit and presentation ranging from 0.0 (never, ever seen) to 6.0 (rarely seen). But that wasn’t even the decisive factor — it was the “ordinals,” ranking skaters from first to worst.

And it had a few problems:

1. Rep meant everything. Judges weren’t going to give a bunch of high scores until the big names hit the ice in the last group. A veteran skater would often get the benefit of the doubt unless he or she skidded all over the ice.

2. Comebacks after the short program were all but impossible. Sarah Hughes’ rally from fourth after the short program to the 2002 gold medal was the exception, requiring an exceptional sequence of dominoes to fall.

Here’s an example: Let’s say Jane Jumpwell is fifth after the short program with a bunch of 5.5s while Sally Spinner is first with a bunch of 5.7s. Short program ordinals are cut in half, so Spinner would have 0.5 points to Jumpwell’s 2.5. (The fewer points, the better.)

Then let’s say Jumpwell has the best free skate ever — all 6.0s — while Spinner stumbles around to a bunch of 5.3s and 5.4s. But then everyone else stumbles around, and Spinner is still second-best to Jumpwell. From the free skate, Jumpwell would have 1.0 points to Spinner’s 2.0. Final totals: Spinner 2.5, Jumpwell 3.5.

Let’s make it less hypothetical: Denis Ten was ninth in this year’s short program and third in the free skate. Under the old system, he would have had 7.5 points. Spain’s Javier Fernandez would have beaten him just because so many skaters finished in the 2.34-point gap between Fernandez and Ten in the short program. The fact that Ten blew Fernandez away in the free skate would’ve meant nothing.

This year, 12 men’s skaters were in contention for the podium after the short program. Under the old system, most of them would’ve been out.

3. Transparency? What transparency? Why did a judge give a 5.3 instead of a 5.5? Who knows?

The current system lets us see every element. Was the triple axel underrotated? There it is, with a lowered base value and a negative Grade of Execution. And judges weigh in on the “components” — skating skills, transitions, choreography, interpretation timing, etc.

(Let’s dismiss one bit of criticism — the idea that skaters get credit for what they attempt. Utter nonsense. If you say you’re going to do a triple-triple but you only do a double-single, you get credit for the double-single. If you fall, you get a mandatory 1-point deduction as well as a negative Grade of Execution for the jump. And you may have underrotated the jump to begin with, which reduces the base value … add it all up, and you’re down many points.)

Compare this with snowboarding and freestyle skiing. Athletes do all kinds of tricks and get exactly one number. Why was that run a 93 while the run before it was a 91? Who knows?

So when we question figure skating scores, we can take a closer look. That’s why The Boston Globe‘s John Powers attributed Adelina Sotnikova’s controversial figure skating victory to simple math: “There are those in the Land of the Morning Calm and beyond who’ll claim that Queen Yu Na wuz robbed, that it was a bag job for the homegirl, that figure skating is every bit as corrupt and confusing as it was in the years that culminated in the Salt Lake judging scandal. And then there are those who can count.”

So Sotnikova won because she got more points for her jumps, right? Well, not quite. Sotnikova may have done more technically demanding jumps, but the judges correctly knocked her down for a mistake. By Sally Jenkins’ figuring, it was actually the spins, not the jumps, that put Sotnikova ahead. And Amy Rosewater’s dissection shows how Sotnikova and her coaches refined her program for maximum points while Kim was in virtual international isolation.

But Rosewater’s piece hints at another problem: the “component” scores. Kim barely beat Sotnikova here. But Sotnikova kept it close by improving five points and change from the European Championships.

Improvement? Or a judging flaw? Ultimately, this is the most subjective part of the figure skating system. And there’s no way to take it out completely without reducing the whole sport to a jump-off and spin-off.

So that subjectivity is still there. And that’s why, for all of Powers’ protests, my former colleague Christine Brennan has a point when she investigates the makeup of the judging panel and the anonymity in the judging process. We don’t know who gave what mark.

On NBC, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir stressed the importance of “connecting with the audience.” That’s going to be a bit easier for the host country’s favorite than it is for Gracie Gold or Yuna Kim. Did that sway the judges? Maybe.

And would they mark things up any differently if we knew who gave what score? Would the pressure to please the home crowd be outweighed by the pressure of knowing the marks would be scrutinized by every observer around the world?

So what we can say of figure skating’s judging system is this: The numbers are fine. And the human beings behind them may be fine. But we need to know who they are. One simple change could ease so many problems.


Sochi recap: Figure skating, women’s free skate

It’s not fair to say Olympic figure skating is still the same mess it was in the past. The new scoring system does add a bit of transparency. But judges are human, particularly in a sport in which the athletes are also artists trying to connect with a crowd. And that’s why Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova is a gold medalist ahead of defending champion Yuna Kim.

Date: 20-Feb

Sport: Figure skating

Event: Women’s free program

Medalists: Adelina Sotnikova (Russia), Yuna Kim (South Korea), Carolina Kostner (Italy)

SportsMyriad projections: Mao Asada (Japan), Yuna Kim (South Korea), Ashley Wagner (USA)

How U.S. fared: Polina Edmunds, who’s not yet old enough to drive, had a graceful skate with a few difficult elements. She hit the combinations but fell on a triple — Johnny Weir pointed out it was the same error she had in the national championships. Everything else was solid, and Edmunds had a personal best 122.21 and a total of 183.25, just behind Japan’s Akiko Suzuki in third place with the top six to come.

Gracie Gold skated very well. She just had one costly fall on a triple flip. She also followed Russia’s Sotnikova, and the lack of energy in the arena may have deflated some of her component scores. She beat the personal best she set in the team program with a score of 136.90 and a total of 205.53.

Ashley Wagner had dazzling spins, and she didn’t fall or land too awkwardly. She pumped her fists as she finished. But Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski noticed a couple of small errors, including one underrotation. That was enough to limit her score to 127.99, just shy of her personal best.

The USA is officially in a medal drought in this event, but finishing fourth (Gold), seventh (Wagner) and ninth (Edmunds) isn’t too bad. Maybe the Olympics could add a team event with three women per team?

What happened: Japanese favorite Mao Asada rebounded from her dreadful short program by landing everything in her demanding free skate, including the fateful triple axel. She was marked down on two jumps but not much else, getting a career-high 142.71 points. Her total of 198.22 wouldn’t contend for a medal. Would it?

France’s Mae Berenice Meite, who skated to the same Prince tune as Jason Brown in the short program, did her free skate to the sounds of someone tuning his guitar. It segued into some slow blues, then Queen’s We Will Rock You, then ZZ Top’s La Grange. Sounds like an iPod for old guys like me, but the segues were awfully jarring. So was a fall on the triple loop. Everything else was solid.

The other highlights of the second-to-last group were Edmunds and Japan’s Akiko Suzuki, who was just clean enough to edge past Edmunds. Asada was well in front.

Russia’s Julia Lipnitskaia led off the final group. She was the darling of the country after the team event but fell badly in the short program. She did it again here. She eked ahead of Asada but knew the score wouldn’t stand.

Italy’s Carolina Kostner had an entertaining program to Ravel’s Bolero, with just one shaky landing. Everything else was terrific. She beat her personal best by more than 10 points, putting Olympic disappointments in the past.

Then came Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova, who flew through the heavens, solved Fermat’s last theorem, inspired soldiers to lay down their arms … or something like that. We really have no idea what the judges saw. She was good, surely. But she did miss a landing (which was indeed downgraded), and her program was simply not as good as Kostner’s. The judges said it was more than seven points better.

Gold and Wagner had the misfortune of following that. So did South Korea’s Yuna Kim, the defending champion. Kim was flawless. Beautiful. If only she were Russian.

“Any other night, it would’ve been hers,” said Johnny Weir. And it should’ve been.

The medalists deserved it. Just not in that order. Kim, Kostner, Sotnikova would’ve been just fine. Lipnitskaia probably deserved seventh rather than fifth ahead of Asada and Wagner.

Full results

Sochi recap: Figure skating, ice dance free dance

Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir held the world record for a few minutes before handing over the record and their Olympic champion status to American neighbors Charlie Davis and Meryl White.

I have no idea whether the silver medalists were robbed … and neither do you.

What I do know — these athletes were terrific. This was not the carnage on ice from 2006, where Barbara Fusar Poli (now a coach) stared daggers through partner Maurizio Margaglio for an uncomfortable 30 seconds. As my colleague Kelly Whiteside called it at the time, the duo waited in the newly renamed “kiss and cry and I will kill you when we leave this ice” area.

Date: 17-Feb

Sport: Figure skating

Event: Ice dancing, free skate

Medalists: Davis/White (USA), Virtue/Moir (Canada), Ilinykh/Katsalapov (Russia)

SportsMyriad projections: Davis/White (USA), Virtue/Moir (Canada), Bobrova/Soloviev (Russia)

How U.S. fared: The Shib Sibs, Maia and Alex Shibutani, performed to a Michael Jackson medley starting with the apropos choice, Wanna Be Startin’ Something. They may have been born a decade after Thriller was released, but they had a great feel for the music. Johnny Weir noted they were a little slower and safer than they were at the national championships, but it was still engaging. The Thriller titletrack was the final song in the medley, and it was playing when the Shibs did their most dazzling lifts of the sequence. Weir and Tara Lipinski were a little disappointed in the energy, but it was fun to watch.

What? The scores? Oh. They got a one-point deduction for something, apparently an incorrect lift, for a free dance score of 90.70, 1.08 points behind the British duo of Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland in the free dance but first place overall with eight performances left.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates were up a couple of pairs later, skating to music from Les Mis. They were a bit more formal but nice and graceful, finishing with a breathtaking lift, with Chock on Bates’ back and her skates on his thighs as they glided toward center ice for a final flourish.

Bates had time to say hello to most of his family from the kiss and cry. Terry Gannon noted Bates’ Seinfeldian puffy shirt, while Lipinski said her dress was “heaven.” They scored a career-best 99.18, second to Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, the interlopers between the American duos.

Chock and Bates finished eighth. The Shib Sibs were ninth.

Then Davis and White. See below.

What happened: Heading into the final group of five, the Italian duo was in second, followed by Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, then the USA’s Chock/Bates and Shib Sibs.

World Championship bronze medalists Natalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, fourth after the short program, naturally took the lead but were obviously disappointed in their score, with a one-point deduction on a lift.

Then the defending champions, Americans — I mean, Canadians — Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. They were perfect. I didn’t notice them being slightly out of sync at one point. I didn’t mind the cloying classical score, which abruptly segued from boring piano music to overblown orchestal flourishes. (I majored in music — I sat through enough of that, thanks very much. Why a Canadian duo doesn’t dance to Rush’s Malignant Narcissism is beyond me.)

OK, seriously — they were fine. How Virtue did a perfect back bend while poised on a skate on Moir’s thigh is beyond me. Lipinski and Weir called it flawless. Their season-best free skate coming in was 112.41. They beat that — a world-record 114.66, for a total of 190.99. Davis and White had scored 114.34 in the team event for the previous record. Game on.

Russia’s Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, third after the short program, performed to Swan Lake. So did France’s Pernelle Carron and Lloyd Jones earlier in the evening. Unlike the slightly funkier Carron and Jones, the Russian duo was full of classical grace. And some spectacular acrobatics. They scored 110.44, sealing the bronze medal and poised for silver if Davis and White somehow hit a rut.

Pity Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, the Russians who had medal hopes but were fifth after the short program and had to follow that. As if knowing they couldn’t reach the podium, they were just a little flat.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White went last. And they threw down. Their program will make the casual viewer drop his jaw several times and think, “How the …?” And they’re smiling and graceful and …

Yeah, they won. They reclaimed the world record free dance at 116.63.

Dig into the scores all you want. In other events, you can see technical flaws — jumps that were supposed to be triples but turned into doubles, something that was underrotated, etc. Back in Torino, when everyone hit the ice, you could see those flaws in ice dancing as well. Here? Everyone’s too good.

The New York Times’ Jere Longman did the research to show why the Americans won the short program. Canadian media will surely argue otherwise. A few days ago, some people in the Canadian media trumped up some nonsense about an American-Russian conspiracy to keep the Canadians out of gold in the team event and the ice dance. That’s ridiculous for these reasons:

1. There’s no animosity between the USA and Canada. They all train together.

2. There is animosity between the USA and Russia. Doesn’t anyone read newspapers any more?

3. Judges’ scores are anonymous, with high and low marks tossed out. You’d need to get multiple judges on your side to fix something, and even then, you couldn’t tell whether they did what you asked.

So the conspiracy talk, which died quickly, was ridiculous. What you have instead are mere mortals trying to split hairs between two insane pairs of ice dancers who have progressed their sport like snowboarders unleashing a 1440 McCrippler corkscrew or whatever you call it.

And somehow, amid all the controversy and hubbub, they went out and nailed it on the world’s biggest stage. You may hate the music choices, you may hate most forms of dance, and you may think Team A was a lot more fun than Team B. But you have to give these dancers respect.

Full results

Sochi recap: Figure skating, men’s free skate

A comedy of errors in the Olympics sees Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu win because they’d already bought a gold medal and had to give it to someone.

Date: 14-Feb

Sport: Figure skating

Event: Men’s free skate

Medalists: Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan), Patrick Chan (Canada), Denis Ten (Kazakhstan)

SportsMyriad projections: Patrick Chan (Canada), Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan), Daisuke Takahashi (Japan)

How U.S. fared: Jeremy Abbott had already won over the crowd with his determination in finishing his short program after a horrible fall. Still in pain, he changed his quad to a triple and a triple-triple to a triple-double, and Johnny Weir thought he looked tense. But the program was clean, getting positive Grades of Execution (GOE) on each element, and the crowd enjoyed his creative moves to a Muse soundtrack. His free skate score was a personal-best 160.12. His total of 232.70 was second through the first two groups, just 0.29 behind the Czech Republic’s Tomas Verner, and he wound up 12th.

Jason Brown was among the gaggle of skaters with a legitimate chance at a bronze medal after the short program, but given the lack of high-scoring elements in his program (in other words, no quad), he needed to be perfect, and he wasn’t. Not bad, though, and he took ninth.

What happened: You can always count on the guy from Uzbekistan to bring things to life. Misha Ge, with a lopsided scarlet hairstyle, skated to a medley of dance tunes, ending with Tutti Frutti and finishing in the same pose as Val Kilmer in Top Secret. The judges only gave him a 6.43 in choreography because they’re squares. He, Abbott and quad-master Kevin Reynolds of Canada were the highlights of the second group.

All 12 remaining skaters came in with a legitimate shot at the podium, but no one in the second-to-last group really impressed. Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten, a contender coming in but only ninth after a wobbly short program, put one hand down on a jump but otherwise made few errors, moving into first at 255.10.

And yet Ten’s score stood up as the first two of the last group simply didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. Spain’s Javier Fernandez stepped out of a couple of elements; Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi didn’t convert any of his three biggest jumps.

Surely Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, the leader after the short program, would put things right. Nope. He fell on his opening quad. Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski assured the NBCSN audience that he has recovered from similar mistakes to win in the past. Then he fell again. He still took the lead over Ten but was nowhere near the score he wanted.

So surely Canada’s Patrick Chan, the three-time world champion, would assume control, right? When he landed his quad-triple combination, it certainly seemed that way. Then it all started to go wrong. Two hands down on his next quad. Two more hands down as he spun out of control on a triple axel. Another awkward landing. Added up the numbers, and … Hanyu kept the lead. In fact, Hanyu had a higher free skate score than Chan — 178.64 to 178.10 — to add to his lead from the short program.

Those would be the gold and silver medalists despite all the errors. The battle was on for bronze with two skaters left and Denis Ten trying to hang on.

Germany’s Peter Liebers came into the evening with a 1.98-point lead over Ten and an 0.04-point lead over Jason Brown. He wiped out on his opening quad and was downgraded on a triple axel.

So Brown had the open door to win an improbable bronze if he could just skate his relatively simpler program more cleanly than the others had done. But he still needed a career best to reach the medals, and a couple of shaky landings early wiped away that chance.

It was Hanyu, Chan and Ten. None of whom skated well, but they dared to attempt tough jumps and won a battle of attrition.


Full results

Sochi recap: Figure skating, men’s short program

Russian legend Evgeni Plushenko fell in pain and couldn’t keep going. American Jeremy Abbott fell hard into the side of the rink but won over the Russian fans by getting back up and completing an otherwise strong program. Meanwhile, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu had the best point total in an international event, and the USA’s Jason Brown was among a gaggle of skaters with a legitimate shot at bronze behind Hanyu and Patrick Chan.

Date: 13-Feb

Sport: Figure skating

Event: Men’s short program

How U.S. fared: Jeremy Abbott went up for his first jump, a quad-triple combination, and wiped out like a short-track skater on the quad landing. He slammed hard on his side and skidded hard into the boards. For a few seconds, it seems as if he would follow Evgeni Plushenko in withdrawing.

But Abbott got up, tentatively went across the ice, heard the crowd, and kept right on going. He got through the rest of his program with hardly a bobble.

It wasn’t as if the judges went overboard with sympathy. They still gave Abbott a negative Grade of Execution on his triple axel. He scored a 72.58, pretty good for someone who nearly broke himself in half attempting his first jump. No medal for him, but if anyone ever questions the guts that figure skaters bring to the ice, show that clip. He’s in 15th.

Jason Brown seems to be a Prince fan. He skated to Prince music (alas, not one of the classics) and had the old Prince symbol on his back. And he skated cleanly, just without the dazzling jumps of a few others. His 86.00 was ahead of his season best of 84.77. He’s in sixth place, just 0.98 points out of third.

What happened: Not a figure skating fan but looking for a fun performance that actually rocks? Check out Canada’s Kevin Reynolds, who leapt around to some AC/DC.

The favorites threw down in the second-to-last group. Japanese teen Yuzuru Hanyu did a fist bump after landing a flawless quad, and his confidence carried him through. He’s the first person to break 100 in an international men’s short program.

Spain’s Javier Fernandez followed with a good program despite a couple of missteps here and there. Then came the other big favorite — Canada’s Patrick Chan, skating to Rachmaninov. His opening quad-triple combo was a nice answer to Hanyu’s challenge — add the +2.00 Grade of Execution, and he got 16.40 points just on that. But he had to step out of a landing on a triple axel. With the arena so quiet you could hear Chan’s skates scrape across the ice, the Canadian nailed the rest of his program for a strong 97.52, well ahead of Fernandez and Brown — and certainly in striking range of Hanyu.

French veteran Brian Joubert, accomplished everywhere but the Olympics, closed the penultimate program with a clean, conservative program.

In the last group, Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten had the potential to challenge the leaders, but he fell badly on his opening quad and could only salvage an 84.06.

Germany’s Peter Liebers sparked a debate between NBC commentators Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski. Weir thought he was solid but not memorable. Lipinski disagreed. The judges didn’t give him great component scores, but he moved ever so slightly ahead of Brown at 86.04.

China’s Han Yan stumbled a bit to get an 85.66. The last two were the Japanese, starting with Daisuke Takahashi. The defending bronze medalist underrotated his opening quad and landed on two feet. He wound up joining the logjam between third and 10th.

Tatsuki Machida, who won a pair of Grand Prix events this season, joined the end of that logjam by failing to finish a couple of his planned elements. He’s at 83.48 points, just 3.5 behind Fernandez in third.

Quote: “The second I stood up and the crowd was screaming, I had to finish.” – Jeremy Abbott on NBC

Full results

Sochi recap: Figure skating, pairs

Russia, Russia. Then Russia, Russia. The Olympic hosts really enjoyed this night, as their two figure skating pairs were magnificent. Canadian and American pairs had their moments, while Germany’s four-time world champions skidded to bronze.

Date: 12-Feb

Sport: Figure skating

Event: Pairs, free skate

Medalists: Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov (Russia), Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov (Russia), Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy (Germany)

SportsMyriad projections: Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov (Russia), Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy (Germany), Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (Canada)

How U.S. fared: Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir went for it once again. Depending on your definition of “landed,” they’re the first pair to land a quadruple Salchow throw in the Olympics. Castelli two-footed the landing but was given credit for it. They had a couple more bobbles on the way to a ninth-place finish.

Felicia Zhang and Nathan Barthomay weren’t as technically dazzling but skated cleanly, moving up from 14th in the short program to 12th overall.

What happened: A couple of favorites faltered. Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, fifth after the short program, had a fall that removed them from contention. China’s 16-year-old Chang Peng fell and had several more problems as she and Hao Zhang dropped down the standings.

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch took up the mantle for Canada, building momentum through a clean and flowing program that had Moore-Towers jumping up and down on the ice as the final notes of the music sounded. That performance was the best before the Big Four took the ice.

The Big Four started with the surprise — Russia’s Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, who had the thinnest resume of the final group. In October, they were a distant third behind their compatriots and Moore-Towers/Moscovitch at Skate America. Not this time. Skating to some music from The Addams Family, the young Russians nailed every element in their program, easily moving into the lead.

That was the warmup for the favorites, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. They also hit absolutely everything in an athletic program set to Jesus Christ Superstar. Not only did they get great scores for their elements, but their “component” scores were through the roof — everything at least a 9.46, with a 9.96 for “interpretation timing.” Home-crowd boost? Maybe a little, but no one could deny their greatness. They took the lead over Stolbova and Klimov as the Russian crowd exulted in the performances of their favorites.

Good luck following that, Qing Pang and Jian Tong! They botched their first combination jump — a planned double-double that turned into a double-single — but rebounded with tremendous composure. They slid into a tentative third place with one pair to go.

That pair was the four-time world champion German duo of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. The daring duo, in second place after their fun Pink Panther short program, hit trouble right away. Szolkowy tumbled after the first jump in a planned triple-triple combination. They bounced back with aplomb before heading into what NBC commentator Johnny Weir called a gutsy decision — a triple Salchow throw at the very end of the program. Savchenko flew up, spun, then landed with a nasty thud. Their component scores — and their short program — kept them on the podium.

Quote: “It’s not easy to grab someone by the hips after they’ve fallen from heaven.” – NBC’s Johnny Weir on the French pair of Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres.

Full results

Sochi recap: Team figure skating, pairs long program

Russia and Canada will be dueling to the wire in this event, while the USA is still in great shape for bronze.

Date: 8- Feb

Sport: Figure skating

Event: Team event, pairs free skate

How U.S. fared: Give Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir this — they went for it. Shnapir threw, and Castelli twisted four times. And maybe a little more, causing her to lose control and put a hand on the ice. That brief bobble was no worry, but Castelli also fell on a triple jump. Still, the dazzling complexity of the program was enough to give them a season-high 117.94 points. That helped the USA add a point to its edge over Japan and almost put another point over Italy.

What happened: This is Japan’s weak spot, and they led off with a fairly mundane program. Then came Castelli and Shnapir, whose athleticism was astounding. Italy’s Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek also had a couple of slips, but their 120.82 was enough to get the edge over the Americans.

Canada and Russia switched away from their top pairs, who did the short programs here and are expected to be on the podium in the pairs event down the road. But Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch took care of business, with only a minor bobble on their way to leading through four pairs. Russia’s Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, skating to Marc Shaiman’s Addams Family soundtrack, botched an early combination jump but were otherwise as solid as you’d expect from a country with such depth in this event. The judges put them in front.

So heading into the last day: Russia 47, Canada 41, USA 34, Italy 31, Japan 30

Quote: “She had that intensity and that fire in her, and we just took it we embraced it and used it in our performance as well.” – Marissa Castelli

Full results: Pairs | Standings

Sochi recap: Team figure skating, short program

Meryl Davis and Charlie White solidified the U.S. effort with a marvelous ice dance short program. Ashley Wagner then shook off any shakiness from the U.S. championships, putting the USA solidly in the top three. Russia and Canada are likely battling for the gold, while the USA will need to hold off Japan and Italy to take bronze.

Date: 8- Feb

Sport: Figure skating

Event: Team event, ice dance and women’s short programs (the pairs free program will be a separate post)

How U.S. fared: The applause for Davis and White started before several seconds before they finished. What more do you need to know? They were first, lifting the USA to third overall with one short program remaining.

Ashley Wagner, whose international success put her on the team despite a dreadful performance at the U.S. national championships, did a solid, spunky skate. The landing on her combination jump was a little shaky, and judges may have downgraded it a bit too much. She was a little befuddled with the judging but happy with her performance.

What happened: We knew China and Japan would fall back in the ice dancing, and they did. Ice dancing is considered a two-pair race — Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir vs. the USA’s Davis and White — and it was. The Americans got exactly three points up on their Canadian icemates, though, to take a massive 10 points in the standings.

Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev took third, establishing themselves as the potential bronze medalists when the teams are tossed aside later in the Games. France’s Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat were the best-dressed pair — he had a pinstripe suit and red tie, she had a black and red dress — but they were disappointed in their skating and took fourth.

The standings through three phases: Russia 27, Canada 26, USA 20, France 17, China 16, Japan 16, Germany 15, Italy 14, Britain 7, Ukraine 7. Still some work to do for the USA if they want to bounce up to gold or silver, but making the top five for the final seems to be a safe bet.

In the women’s skate: Kaetlyn Osmond isn’t the biggest star on the Canadian team, but she blew the doors off right away with a flawless program set to music from Sweet Charity. She set the pace for the early skaters, but then the big guns came out after the ice was resurfaced. Wagner did well, but then 15-year-old uber-flexible Russian Yulia Lipnitskaia was simply dazzling. She was the unsurprising winner of this phase, followed by Carolina Kostner, who got Italy into the final five.

The surprise was Japan’s Mao Asada finishing ahead of Wagner despite falling on her triple axel. That said, Asada dared to try the difficult jump and rebounded well through the rest of her program.

The final five teams continue to the free skate: Russia, Canada, USA, Japan, Italy. Just missing out: France and China. Also out: Germany, Ukraine, Britain.

Full results: Ice dance | Women | Standings

2014 medal projections: Jan. 14 update

Time for a few tweaks given the results (and untimely injuries) of late — and when you add it all up, we have a new leader:

Alpine skiing: Lindsey Vonn’s absence shakes things up a bit and pretty well insures the USA won’t come near its total of eight medals in 2010. Ted Ligety (third overall) and Mikaela Shiffrin are still favorites, and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal (second overall; downhill and super-G leader) is still as dominant as ever.


  • Men’s downhill: Erik Guay (CAN) up to silver, Klaus Kröll (AUT) down to considered, Adrien Theaux (FRA) up to considered
  • Men’s giant slalom: Alexis Pinturault (FRA) up to bronze, Manfred Moelgg (ITA) down to considered
  • Men’s slalom: Mario Matt (AUT) up to silver, Ivica Kostelic (CRO) down to considered
  • Men’s combined: Pinturault up to gold, Ligety up to silver, Svindal up to bronze, Kostelic down to considered
  • Women’s downhill: Vonn out, Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) up to gold, Tina Maze (SLO) up to silver, Tina Weirather (LIE) up to bronze, Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden (SUI) up to considered
  • Women’s super-G: Vonn out, Anna Fenninger (AUT) up to gold, Tina Maze (SLO) down to silver, Lara Gut (SUI) up to bronze, Julia Mancuso (USA) down to considered
  • Women’s giant slalom: Jessica Lindell-Vikarby (SWE) up to considered
  • Women’s slalom: My medal picks are currently 1-2-4 in the World Cup standings. They’ll stay put.

Biathlon: Andreas Birnbacher (Germany) has been sick, so we won’t knock him out of the projections just yet. Not too many surprises on the men’s side, though France’s relay team needs to improve. The surprise in the women’s competition is the Czech Republic’s Gabriela Soukalova, who’s leading the World Cup standings. France’s Marie Dorin Habert has a ruptured tendon in her ankle, so we’ll remove her from consideration.


  • Women’s sprint: Soukalova (CZE) up to bronze, Olena Pidrushna (UKR) down to considered
  • Women’s pursuit: Soukalova up to silver, Valj Semerenko (UKR) up to bronze, Andrea Henkel (GER) and Pidrushna down to considered

Bobsled: The early-season races in North America have skewed the current standings toward the U.S. and Canadian teams. The men haven’t done as well in Europe. Manuel Machata isn’t getting many opportunities for Germany, and Latvia’s Oskars Melbardis isn’t in great form.


  • Men’s two-man and four-man: Drop Machata from considered
  • Women’s: Elana Meyers (USA) up to silver, Sandra Kiriasis (GER) down to bronze, Cathleen Martini (GER) down to considered, Jamie Greubel (USA) up to considered

Cross-country skiing: Dario Cologna (SUI) is trying to come back from ankle surgery. We’ll leave him in for now. A couple of other skiers have skipped the odd World Cup event or the entire Tour de Ski, so the World Cup standings from this season aren’t that meaningful. One surprise: American Simi Hamilton won a freestyle sprint.


  • Women’s sprint: Denise Herrman (GER) and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) up to considered

Figure skating: Most of the pre-Sochi competition is complete aside from the European Championships this week, so the projections won’t change much. The Four Continents will only have a couple of Olympians in action. But qualification and national championships have made things interesting. Ashley Wagner placed fourth, and her inclusion is mildly controversial. Evgeni Plushenko on the fringe of Russia’s plans, Japan’s Miki Ando retired after missing out an Olympic berth, and projected gold medalist Mao Asada was third in Japan’s championships. At least defending gold medalist Yuna Kim won handily in South Korea after skipping the Grand Prix season. Gracie Gold’s score from U.S. Championships would be the highest in the world this year, but would international judges be as generous?


  • Women’s: Gracie Gold (USA) considered. Miki Ando (Japan) out. Considered list now specifying the likely Russian skaters: Adelina Sotnikova and Julia Lipnitskaia

Freestyle skiing: The X Games and World Cup events may still shake things up.

Changes in aerials

  • Men: 2010 World Cup champion Anton Kusnhir (BLR) missed the 2012-13 season and has come back with a win in Deer Valley and another podium. Countryman Alexei Grishin, the 2010 gold medalist, is making a comeback and was third in Deer Valley. They’re up to considered.
  • Women: We’ll see who makes China and Australia teams. USA’s Ashley Caldwell and Emily Cook up to considered.

Changes in moguls

  • Men: Medal contenders are 1-2-3 in World Cup. No change.
  • Women: No change, though Miki Ito (JPN) is trying to come back from a knee injury.

Changes in skicross

  • Men: Dave Duncan (CAN) up to silver, Andreas Matt (AUT) up to bronze, Chris Del Bosco (CAN) down to considered, Filip Flisar (SLO) down to considered
  • Women: Katrin Mueller (SUI) up to considered

Changes in slopestyle

  • Men: Waiting for U.S. team announcement to shake things up.
  • Women: Kaya Turski (CAN) is fighting a knee injury. Devin Logan (USA) up to considered

Changes in halfpipe

  • Men: Watching health of Torin Yater-Wallace (USA). Justin Dorey (CAN) up to considered.
  • Women: Roz Groenewoud (CAN) had — you guessed it — knee surgery. We’ll see how she recovers. Devin Logan (USA) up to considered — yes, in two events

Luge: They’ve run seven of nine World Cup events this season, so that should be enough to give us a clearer picture. Still a whole lot of Germany.


  • Men: David Möller (GER) up to silver, Dominik Fischnaller (ITA) up to bronze, Andi Langenhan (GER) down to considered, Chris Mazdzer (USA) up to considered
  • Women, doubles, relay: No change

Nordic combined: Most medal contenders are having solid seasons, particularly World Cup leader Eric Frenzel (GER) and Jason Lamy-Chappuis (FRA).


  • Normal hill: Mikko Kokslien (NOR) up to bronze, Bernhard Gruber (AUT) down to considered

Short-track speedskating: No change. We’ll keep an eye on the Euro championships and make sure all the picks are healthy, but the major pre-Sochi competitions are long complete.

Skeleton: Feeling a little more bullish on Matt Antoine (USA) but not quite moving him up into the medals.


  • Men: Tomass Dukurs (LAT) up to bronze, Frank Rommel (GER) down to considered
  • Women: Shelley Rudman (GBR) up to bronze, Marion Thees (GER) down to considered

Ski jumping: He used to look like Harry Potter. Then he looked like Trevor Horn. Now he’s back — Salt Lake/Vancouver champion Simon Ammann (SUI) was third in the Four Hills. And 40something Japanese jumper Noriaki Kasai is fourth in the World Cup. In women’s, we’re still holding out hope for the rehabbing Sarah Hendrickson (USA).


  • Men’s large hill: Simon Ammann (SUI) up to bronze, Noriaki Kasai (JPN) up to considered, Anders Jacobsen (NOR) down to considered
  • Women’s: Irina Avvakumova (RUS) up to bronze, Carina Vogt (GER) up to considered, Coline Mattel (FRA) down to considered

Snowboarding: Just did the picks 14 days ago; no point in changing anything until after the X Games.

Speedskating: These picks were also recent, and the European Allround Championships didn’t give us any reason to change.

No changes in curling or ice hockey, and no changes are likely unless we have a sudden wave of injuries or other changes.

2014 medal projections (and team stats): Figure skating

Updated Jan. 14; minor update Jan. 21

Here’s what we know about the ever-changing world of figure skating:

– For the Japanese men, Russian women, Chinese pairs: Whoever makes team is a contender, even if Chinese pairs have slipped a bit.

– All these events have long-established favorites, but none moreso than ice dancing, where everyone else is expected to fight for bronze after the Americans and Canadians take gold and silver (not necessarily in that order).

– The team event is new and controversial. Some fans worry that their favorite skaters will wear themselves out competing in a team event and turning around for their regular competition. The event is rarely seen anywhere else, and a couple of countries are being allowed to bring skaters who didn’t qualify for individual events just so they can have a full team. See below for more fun with that.

– The major pre-Olympic events are done. We’ll keep an eye on the European and Four Continents championships to see if any high scores are posted, but the top skaters are focused on Sochi (and qualification). Some countries will have some tough competition to make the team, so we may eliminate some skaters who don’t make the cut.

The ISU bios are worth checking if you want any more detail about performance history or music selections.

I’ve given a “highest score” list in each event. That would be the highest scores recorded since the current scoring system went into effect — 2010-11 for ice dancing, 2003 for other events.

Away we go …


Gold: Patrick Chan (Canada)
Silver: Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan)
Bronze: Daisuke Takahashi (Japan)

Also considered: Evgeni Plushenko (Russia), anyone from Japan

2013 Grand Prix Final results: Hanyu, Chan, Nobunari Oda (Japan), Tatsuki Machida (Japan), Maxim Kovtun (Russia), Han Yan (China)

2013 World Championship top 8: Chan, Denis Ten (Kazakhstan), Javier Fernandez (Spain), Hanyu, Kevin Reynolds (Canada), Takahashi, Max Aaron (USA), Takahito Mura (Japan)

2010 Olympic medalists: Evan Lysacek (USA; out injured), Plushenko, Takahashi

Highest scores: Chan 295.27, Hanyu 293.25, Takahashi 276.72, Fernandez 274.87, Ten 266.48, Machida 265.38, Oda 262.98, Plushenko 261.23

WOMEN (or “LADIES” if you prefer)

Gold: Mao Asada (Japan)
Silver: Yuna Kim (South Korea)
Bronze: Ashley Wagner (USA)

Also considered: Gracie Gold (USA), Julia Lipnitskaia (Russia), Carolina Kostner (Italy), Adelina Sotnikova (Russia)

2013 Grand Prix Final results: Asada, Julia Lipnitskaia (Russia), Wagner, Elena Radionova (Russia), Adelina Sotnikova (Russia), Anna Pogorilaya (Russia)

2013 World Championship top 8: Kim, Asada, Kanako Murakami (Japan), Wagner, Gracie Gold (USA), Zijun Li (China), Kaetlyn Osmond (Canada)

2010 Olympic medalists: Kim, Asada, Joannie Rochette (Canada; retired)

Highest scores: Kim 228.56, Asada 207.59, Rochette 202.64, Ando 201.34, Akiko Suzuki (Japan) 199.58, Lipnitskaia 198.23, Irina Slutskaya (Russia; retired) 198.06, Kostner 197.89


Gold: Volosozhar/Trankov (Russia)
Silver: Savchenko/Szolkowy (Germany)
Bronze: Duhamel/ Radford (Canada)

Also considered: Pang/Tong (China), Peng/Zhang (China)

2013 Grand Prix Final results: Savchenko/Szolkowy, Volosozhar/Trankov, Pang/Tong, Peng/Zhang, Duhamel/ Radford, Moore-Towers/Moscovitch (Canada)

2013 World Championship top 8: Volosozhar/Trankov, Savchenko/Szolkowy, Duhamel/ Radford, Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, Pang/Tong, Kavaguti/Smirnov (Russia), Bazarova/Larionov (Russia), James/Cipres (France)

2010 Olympic medalists: Shen/Zhao (China; retired), Pang/Tong, Savchenko/Szolkowy

Highest scores: Volosozhar/Trankov 237.71, Savchenko/Szolkowy 227.03, Shen/Zhao 216.57, Pang/Tong 213.98, Kavaguti/Smirnov 213.15, Moore-Towers/Moscovitch 208.45, Duhamel/Radford 204.56, Totmianina/Marinin (Russia; retired) 204.58


Gold: Davis/White (USA)
Silver: Virtue/Moir (Canada)
Bronze: Bobrova/Soloviev (Russia)

Also considered: Cappellini/Lanotte (Italy), Ilinykh/Katsalapov (Russia), Pechalat/Bourzat (France), Weaver/Poje (Canada)

2013 Grand Prix Final results: Davis/White, Virtue/Moir, Pechalat/Bourzat, Bobrova/Soloviev, Weaver/Poje, Cappellini/Lanotte

2013 World Championship top 8: Davis/White, Virtue/Moir, Bobrova/Soloviev, Cappellini/Lanotte, Weaver/Poje, Pechalat/Bourzat, Chock/Bates (USA), Shibutani/Shibutani (USA)

2010 Olympic medalists: Virtue/Moir, Davis/White, Domnina/Shabalin (Russia; retired)

Highest scores (since program revision): Davis/White 191.35, Virtue/Moir 190.00, Weaver/Poje 175.23, Pechalat/Bourzat 173.18, Ilinykh/Katsalapov 171.89, Bobrova/Soloviev 169.23, Cappellini/Lanotte 168.49, Chock/Bates 164.91


Gold: Canada
Silver: Russia
Bronze: USA

Also considered: France, Japan

2013 Team Trophy: USA, Canada, Japan, Russia, China, France

2013 World Championships (simulated): Canada, USA, Russia, France, Italy

Qualifying points: Canada, Russia, USA, Japan, Italy, France, China, Germany, Ukraine, Britain

Simulated team event? Why, yes! Here’s how it works:

The Olympic figure skating team event format hasn’t been tried elsewhere as far as I know. The World Team Trophy has two skaters in each individual event; the Olympic format will have one. After the short programs, the teams will be trimmed from 10 to five.

The scoring is similar, though.

So suppose we used the 2013 World Championships results and pretended that was a team event?

One problem at the outset: Only six countries qualified in all four events at Worlds. That’s Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, USA. Three-event countries: China (no dance), Japan (no pairs), Poland (no women), Ukraine (no pairs), Britain (no men).

Take out Poland, and those are the 10 countries that have qualified for the Olympic team event. So we’ll just assign 1 point (last place) wherever a country has no athlete. In pairs, where we’re lacking Japanese and Ukrainian entries, we’ll give each of them 1.5 points.

Here’s what we have:

Short programs

Men: Canada (Chan) 10, Japan (Takahashi) 9, France (Joubert) 8, USA (Aaron) 7, China (Song) 6, Germany (Liebers) 5, Russia (Kovtun) 4, Ukraine (Godorozha) 3, Italy (Bacchini) 2, Britain (none) 1

Women: Italy (Kostner) 10, Japan (Murakami) 9, Canada (Osmond) 8, USA (Wagner) 7, Russia (Sotnikova) 6, France (Meite) 5, China (Li) 4, Ukraine (Popova) 3, Britain (McCorkell) 2, Germany (Weinzierl) 1

Pairs: Russia 10, Canada 9, Germany 8, China 7, France 6, Italy 5, USA 4, Britain 3, Japan 1.5, Ukraine 1.5

Dance: USA 10, Canada 9, Russia 8, France 7, Italy 6, Britain 5, Germany 4, Ukraine 3, Japan 2, China 1

Totals after short program
Canada 10+8+9+9 = 36
USA 7+7+4+10 = 28
Russia 4+6+10+8 = 28
France 8+5+6+7 = 26
Italy 2+10+5+6 = 23

Japan 9+9+1.5+2 = 21.5
China 6+4+7+1 = 18
Germany 5+1+8+4 = 18
Britain 1+2+3+5 = 11
Ukraine 3+3+1.5+3 = 10.5

Free skates

Men: Canada 10, USA 9, France 8, Russia 7, Italy 6

Women: Italy 10, USA (Gold) 9, Russia (Tuktamysheva) 8, Canada 7, France 6

Pairs: Russia 10, Canada 9, France 8, USA 7, Italy 6

Dance: USA 10, Canada 9, Italy 8, Russia 7, France 6

Free skate totals
Canada 10+7+9+9 = 35
USA 9+9+7+10 = 35
Russia 7+8+10+7 = 32
Italy 6+10+6+8 = 30
France 8+6+8+6 = 28

Canada 36+35 = 71
USA 28+35 = 63
Russia 28+32 = 60
France 26+28 = 54
Italy 30+23 = 53



Max Aaron (USA): Former USA developmental hockey player was seventh in 2013 World Championships and narrowly missed out on 2013 GP Final. Skating to Bizet, among others. High score: 238.36 (Worlds 2013).

Patrick Chan (Canada): Three-time world champion (2011-13) after two runner-up finishes. Fifth in 2010 Olympics. Third and second in last two GP Finals. Parents immigrated from China. Skating to Rachmaninov, Vivaldi and Corelli. High score 295.27 (Bompard 2013).

Javier Fernandez (Spain): You’ll hear a lot of “first Spanish skater to …” do pretty much anything. Huge in 2012-2013: fourth at GP Final, Euro champion, third at Worlds. Skating music includes Peter Gunn. High score: 274.87 (Euro 2013).

Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan): Third in 2012 World Championships; fourth in 2013. Moved to Canada to train with Brian Orser and others. Second in 2012 GP Final; first in 2013. Skating to Gary Moore and Nino Rota. High score 293.25 (GP Final 2013).

Brian Joubert (France): 2007 world champion hasn’t retired but missed GP season. High score 244.58 (Worlds 2012).

Maxim Kovtun (Russia): Edging into senior competition at 2013 World Championship (17th) and two second-place GP finishes. Skating to Pepe Romero and Tchaikovsky. High score 240.34 (Rostelecom 2013).

Tatsuki Machida (Japan): Grand Prix success but no major events yet. Trains in USA. Skating to East of Eden soundtrack and Stravinsky’s Firebird. High score 265.38 (Skate America 2013).

Nobunari Oda (Japan): Hasn’t finished above sixth in World Championships or Olympics but has come on strong since 2012 knee injury. Third in 2013 GP Final. Descended from 16th century Japanese warlord Nobunaga Oda. Skating to John Barry’s Cotton Club and Rossini’s William Tell Overture. High score 262.98 (Nebelhorn 2013).

Evgeni Plushenko (Russia): Retired after winning 2006 gold (and 2002 silver), came back to take silver in 2010, feuded with federation, got a disc replaced in his back … and still a possibility for Sochi. World champion in 2001, 2003 and 2004. Hasn’t bothered much with GP events since 2005. Free skate music listed as “The Best of Plushenko.” High score 261.23 (Euro 2012).

Kevin Reynolds (Canada): Wild card with massive jumping ability and AC/DC in his short program. High score: 250.55 (Four Continents 2013).

Daisuke Takahashi (Japan): 2010 Olympic bronze medalist and world champion. Second in 2012 World Championships. 2012 GP Final winner. Missed 2013 GP Final with injury. Skating to Samuragochi and The Beatles. High score: 276.72 (World Team Trophy 2012)

Denis Tan (Kazakhstan): Descended from Korean general. Illness wrecked 2013 GP season. 2013 World Championship runner-up is far and away best finish. Trains with Frank Carroll in California. High score: 266.48 (Worlds 2013).

Han Yan (China): 2012 junior world champion. Won 2013 Cup of China. Music mix includes Fats Waller and The Blue Danube. High score 245.62 (China 2013).


Miki Ando (Japan): Fifth in 2010 Olympics, 2011 world champion, then took time off to have a baby. Skating to Sinatra’s My Way and Stravinsky’s Firebird. High score: 201.34 (Four Continents 2011)

Mao Asada (Japan): 2008 and 2010 world champion. 2010 Olympic silver medalist. Skating to Chopin and Rachmaninov. High score 207.59 (NHK 2013).

Yuna Kim (South Korea): 2010 Olympic gold medalist. 2009 and 2013 world champion. Competed little in GP events since 2009 for a variety of reasons (feud with former coach, lobbying for 2018 Olympic bid, injury). Made 2013-14 season debut in Zagreb with a score of 204.49. Skating to Send in the Clowns and Astor Piazzolla. High score 228.56 (Olympics 2010).

Julia Lipnitskaia (Russia): 15-year-old hasn’t skated in major events yet. Moved to senior competition in 2012 with second and third in two GP events (missed final with concussion). Won two GP events in 2013. Skating to Mark Minkov and John Williams (Schindler’s List soundtrack). High score 198.23 (Skate Canada 2013).

Carolina Kostner (Italy): Disastrous free skate in 2010 Olympics was an outlier. 2012 world champion; second in 2013. Second and third in 2013 GP events; didn’t qualify for final. Skating to Dvorak and Rimsky-Korsakov. High score: 197.89 (Worlds 2013).

Mirai Nagasu (USA): Fourth in 2010 Olympics. Hasn’t competed in World Championships since then. Skating to Gershwin and a James Bond medley. High score 190.15 (Olympics 2010).

Anna Pogorilaya (Russia): 15-year old debuted in Grand Prix with win at Cup of China. Skating to Kawai and something from Hans Zimmer’s Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. High score 184.69 (Bompard 2013).

Elena Radionova (Russia): Will turn 15 in January 2014. Finished third and second in first two GP events, then fourth in final. Skating to Anna Karenina and Frida soundtracks. High score 191.81 (NHK 2013).

Adelina Sotnikova (Russia): Ninth in 2013 World Championship; second in 2013 Euro championship. Skating to Bizet and Saint-Saens. High score 193.99 (Euro 2013).

Akiko Suzuki (Japan): Third in 2012 Worlds and first at 2013 World Team Trophy. Also third at 2012 GP Final; barely failed to qualify in 2013. Free skate: Phantom of the Opera. High score: 199.58 (World Team Trophy 2013).

Ashley Wagner (USA): Fourth and fifth in last two World Championships; second and third in GP finals. Skating to Pink Floyd (Shine On You Crazy Diamond) and Prokofiev. High score 194.37 (Bompard 2013).


Meagan Duhamel / Eric Radford (Canada): Paired up after 2010 Olympics (neither skater competed). Moved up through three World Championships: seventh, fifth, third. Radford composed short program music Tribute for former coach Paul Wirtz, who died of lymphoma in 2006. Long program includes Danny Elfman Alice in Wonderland music. High score: 204.56 (Worlds 2013).

Yuko Kavaguti / Alexander Smirnov (Russia): Two-time World Championship medalists placed fourth in 2010 Olympics. Smirnov’s knee injury ruled them out of the GP season and put their Sochi status in doubt. If they make it back, you’ll hear some Borodin and Tchaikovsky. Kavaguti is on her third country, having competed in singles for Japan and once skating at the U.S. Championships. High score: 213.15 (Euro 2013)

Kirsten Moore-Towers / Dylan Moscovitch (Canada): Paired since 2009. Best major finish was fourth in 2013 World Championships. Skating to Raphael Beau, Max Steiner and Nino Rota. High score: 208.45 (Skate America 2013).

Qing Pang / Jian Tong (China): 2010 Olympic silver medalists and world champions. Dropped over next three World Championships: third, fourth, fifth. Third in 2012 and 2013 GP Finals. Skating to Ennio Morricone and something from Les Mis. High score: 213.98 (GP Final 2013).

Cheng Peng / Hao Zhang (China): Zhang and Dan Zhang was the 2006 silver medalists, back when Peng was eight years old. Peng’s bio gives her occupation as “middle school student.” Pair is progressing – high score: 197.37 (GP Final 2013).

Aliona Savchenko / Robin Szolkowy (Germany): Four-time world championships (2008, 09, 11, 12), runners-up in 2010 and 2013. Olympic bronze medalists in 2010. GP Final winners in 2011 and 2013. Skating to Chris de Burgh (no, not The Lady in Red or Don’t Pay the Ferryman) and The Nutcracker. High score 227.03 (GP Final 2013).

Tatiana Volosozhar / Maxim Trankov (Russia): Eighth and seventh with different partners in 2010 Olympics. Teamed up the next year and finished second, second and first in next three World Championships. GP Final winners in 2012; second in 2013. Skating to Khatchaturian and Jesus Christ Superstar. High score 237.71 (Skate America 2013).


Ekaterina Bobrova / Dmitri Soloviev (Russia): Best World Championship finish is third in 2013. Free dance to Vivaldi and Mozart. High score 169.25 (Euro 2013).

Anna Cappellini / Luca Lanotte (Italy): Haven’t yet hit podium at World Championships or GP Finals. Skating to 42nd Street and Barber of Seville. High score 168.49 (Skate America 2013).

Madison Chock / Evan Bates (USA): Each skater won a world junior championship with a different partner, then paired up in 2011. Decent 2012-13 season, seventh in World Championships. Third in two GP events in 2013. Skating to music from Les Mis. High score 164.91 (World Team Trophy 2013).

Meryl Davis / Charlie White (USA): Traded titles back and forth with Virtue and Moir, who train with them and share coaches. 2010 silver medalists, then world champions in 2011 and 2013. Back-to-back GP Final winners. Paired up in their tweens in 1997. Skating to Frederic Loewe and Rimsky-Korsakov. High score 191.35 (GP Final 2013).

Elena Ilinykh / Nikita Katsalapov (Russia): 2010 world junior champions; fifth in 2012 World Championships for best major result. Seventh on 2013 GP circuit, just missing GP Final. Free dancing to Swan Lake. High score 171.89 (Bompard 2013).

Nathalie Pechalat / Fabian Bourzat (France): Best World Championship finish is third in 2012. Also third in three straight GP Finals. Skating to a mix of tunes, highlighted by Big Spender. High score 173.18 (Worlds 2012).

Maia Shibutani / Alex Shibutani (USA): Siblings took World Championship bronze in 2011 but haven’t duplicated those results. Third in two GP events in 2013. Skating to the Michaels — Buble and Jackson. High score 163.79 (Worlds 2011).

Tessa Virtue / Scott Moir (Canada): See Davis/White, to whom they’re inextricably linked. Won gold in 2010 and world title in 2012; second to Davis/White in 2011 and 2013. Paired up in 1997. Skating to Ella Fitzgerald/Louis Armstrong, Alexandre Glazunov and a bit of Skriabin. High score 190.00 (GP Final 2013).

Kaitlyn Weaver / Andrew Poje (Canada): Weaver was born in Texas but moved to Canada to train with Poje and got her citizenship in 2009. Top five in last three World Championships. Skating to Harry Warren, Gideon Kramer and Astor Piazzolla. High score 175.23 (Skate Canada 2013).