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    Pj Kwong

    About Pj Kwong

    With more than 25 years of coaching experience, Pj Kwong is one of Canada's best known figure skating experts. She has worked with CBC Sports as a commentator and analyst since 2007.

Figure Skating

Pj Kwong - Monday Feb. 10, 2014 21:15

Pairs figure skating: Can anyone challenge the Russians?

Canadians in fierce battle for space on podium

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov

World champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, of Russia, are Pj Kwong's bet to win the pairs event in Sochi (Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images)

With the Olympic pairs event set to get underway, I can’t help but think about the many possible medal scenarios.

Right off the top, I think that the team to beat is Russia’s Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. If their short program from the team event is any indication of their readiness, they seem poised to take the gold medal in front of the hometown Russian crowd. Their current world and third European titles speak to the strength of this team, which is only in its third season together.

The silver medal team seems just as clear to me. Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy from Germany are without a doubt the only team who can really challenge the Russians. They are unbelievably strong technically, and have four world and European titles under their belts. They were also able to get ahead of the Russians and take the title at the Grand Prix final this season.

All things being equal, the only way for the Germans to outskate the Russians is if they have error-free skates in the short and free programs, and toss in elements like their throw triple Axel for good measure.

The Russians need to do what they did in their team event short program – be flawless. They truly have a way of skating together as one, which, for me, is the benchmark in pair skating.

The bronze medal battle presents its own set of scenarios. Realistically, I think that five teams are in the mix – including two Canadian teams.

Canadian pairs are in the hunt

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, the reigning world bronze medallists, are in the hunt, as are Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, who were ranked fourth in the world in 2013. Both teams were terrific in the team event and could definitely threaten for a podium spot in this event.

There are two Chinese teams vying for a medal. Three of these four pair skaters are already Olympic medallists and understand what it will take to get on the podium in Sochi.

The 2010 Olympic silver medallists and world champions Qing Pang and Jian Tong seemed a little scratchy to me earlier during their Grand Prix events. They did improve by the time they got to the Grand Prix final, where they took the bronze. They will be relying on their wealth of experience to get them to the podium.

Teammates Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang are also in the mix. I thought their team event short program was outstanding in all the ways that count: basic pair skills, single skating elements and program construction and presentation. The Olympics are a brand new deal for 17-year-old Peng, who can rely on 2006 Olympic silver medallist Zhang’s experience for guidance.

Both Canadian teams impressed me once again during the team event. For Canadian champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, their ace in the hole is their technical ability, which goes across both single and pairs skills including those amazing side-by-side triple Lutz jumps.

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch have charisma to burn all wrapped up in an excellent set of pairs skills. Flawless and focused is what they need to be to reach a step on the Olympic podium.

Based on results from Europeans and the potential (but not the skate) I saw during the team event free event, I think Russia’s Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov have an outside shot at a medal.

The fight for the pairs podium in Sochi is going to be one of the most interesting of these Olympic Games.

Pj’s podium picks:

Gold: Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov (RUS)
Silver: Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (GER)
Bronze: Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang (CHN)

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